ORLANDO, Fla. – (July 26, 2019) Congresswoman Val Demings, who represents Florida's 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, provided remarks at the joint opening ceremony of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the United States and its Auxiliary 120th VFW National Convention, which convened at the Orange County Convention Center on July 21 through July 24. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie also spoke to more than 10,000 members who attended the convention from across the nation. Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings also attended the event.
The VFW is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces. Every year, thousands of VFW and Auxiliary delegates gather to represent the organization’s total membership of more than 1.6 million at the weeklong convention. The general sessions were closed to the public, but a free, two-day weekend veterans walk-in claims clinic and four-day health fair was accessible to all veterans, service members and their families in the OCCC’s West Hall.
Orange County’s senior leadership and Convention Center executives were elated to welcome back the VFW National Convention after nearly 11 years. Their continued success in Orlando is reflected in its estimated $20 million economic impact.
“Orlando is absolutely beautiful. That, combined with the hospitality the city showed us and the professionalism of the Orange County Convention Center staff, made Orlando the perfect city for our 120th VFW National Convention,” B.J. Lawrence, immediate past VFW National Commander, said.
Convention-goers were encouraged to donate non-perishable food items as part of the “Uniting to Combat Hunger” campaign, an initiative to combat food insecurity in central Florida. During the six-month campaign, the VFW Districts of the Department of Florida contributed a total of 66,550 meals to the overall national campaign supporting (6) Florida Feeding America food banks. The collaborative campaign that includes the VFW, Humana, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (an affiliate of Feeding America), CarePlus Health Plans and the Society of St. Andrew exceeded its annual goal by more than triple. Their efforts provided more than 300,000 meals and 2,000 cases of water to residents in the Greater Orlando area, including Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties. The “Uniting to Combat Hunger” campaign was originally launched in March 2018, as a part of the VFW National Convention in Kansas City.
“This year’s results of the ‘Uniting to Combat Hunger’ campaign far surpassed our expectations thanks to the generosity of everyone who has volunteered and donated food or funds to the cause,” said Richard Freiburghouse, VFW Foundation Manager. “The collaborative efforts of the organizations involved focused on improving food insecurity among veterans and supporting five Florida foodbanks across the state. Research shows 25 percent of the nation’s total active duty and reserve personnel seeks aid from food pantries and other charitable programs across the country.”
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About the Veterans of Foreign Wars: The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the U.S. is the nation's largest and oldest major war veterans’ organization. For more information or to join, visit our website at vfw.org.
About Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida: Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is a private, nonprofit organization that collects, stores and distributes donated food to more than 550 feeding partners in six Central Florida counties: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia. For more information, visit www.feedhopenow.org.
About Society of St. Andrew: The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) is grassroots, faith-based, hunger relief nonprofit working with all denominations to bridge the hunger gap between 96 billion pounds of food wasted every year in the United States and the nearly 40 million Americans who live in poverty. Learn more at www.endhunger.org.
About the Orange County Convention Center: The Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest convention facility in North America and provides approximately $3 billion in economic impact to Central Florida annually. In recent years, the Convention Center has averaged nearly 200 meetings, conferences, banquets, conventions and tradeshows that attract more than 1.4 million attendees to the region each year. For more information about the Orange County Convention Center, visit www.occc.net.