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Photo provided via Athens AMVETS Facebook page.

Athens AMVET Riders raise money for veterans in need

As fall quickly moves in, one local organization is working to fundraise for the upcoming holiday season. On Friday, Athens AMVET Riders are holding a reverse raffle to support families and individuals.

The Riders is an organization within AMVETS, like a ladies auxiliary, Kelley Dotson, AMVETS Riders president, said. AMVETS works to help out and reach out to veterans in the area. 

“[AMVETS] is just there to support local veterans,” she said. “They do a lot for the community... A lot of it is they're there for support for their veterans. They help out a lot in that way -- if someone is in need or if you need someone to take you to the grocery store.”

The event has been adjusted to COVID-19 safety precautions and regulations and will be following a similar format to bars and restaurants: masks on until seated and tables spaced six feet apart. There will also be both indoor and outdoor seating available. 

Athens has a lively and growing veteran population, Dotson said. This weekend’s event is a fundraising event for the holidays where each year Athens AMVETS helps veterans and individuals in need during Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

“We also pick a local family who’s in need,” Dotson said. AMVETS often makes food baskets and delivers them, too. Last year AMVETS served at least 10 families, individuals or veterans. 

“Basically, what we're doing is to raise money to help with that,” Dotson said. 

Some of the fundraising will be done through a reverse raffle, Dotson said. The reverse raffle winners will receive cash prizes. There is also a $5 cover charge for AMVETS non-members. Those who have bought tickets in advance get food, some drinks and live music covered by admission.

Local group Next Level will be the live entertainment for the evening. Next Level performs a variety of music, but a lot of ‘80s tunes, Dotson said. Dotson is looking forward to Next Level’s first performance at AMVETS. 

Next Level is a band of four friends based in the Pomeroy, Ohio, and Mason, West Virginia, area. The band has a three-hour set planned for this weekend, lead singer BJ Kreseen said in a message. 

“The Eagles, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Maroon 5, and Lady Gaga are just some of the artists we play,” Kreseen said in a message. “We’ve recently added several country songs to our setlist that are very popular! We cover every genre.”

Next Level welcomes the opportunity to give back to veterans via music, Kreseen added. 

“With the current pandemic situation, a lot of [veterans] are unable to get out and visit with their friends,” she said in a message. “We love being able to make people happy, and bring a little light to a dark time. Music brings people together!”

For Elaina Tartal, whose grandfather is a Korean War veteran, being a veteran is an important part of her grandfather’s life. He’s proud of his service, she said. Tartal, a junior studying political science, said he’s also active in his local veteran scene.

“I think he has a shared sense of community with those people because they went through a similar situation that only they could really understand,” Tartal said. “They just have a lot in common and that's a way that they can stay connected and have friends.”


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