Phoenixville VFW donates $24k to help protect and serve Schuylkill Township

Schuylkill Township Police Lt. Bill Fitzsimmons presents a plaque as thanks to VFW Post 1564 at Wednesday night's board of supervisors meeting for the veterans' $24,000 donation to the department to finance patrol rifles. Photo by Matthew D'Ippolito
VFW Post 1564 Cmdr. Bing Gensemer displays the plaque given to the post by the Schuylkill Township Police Department in recognition of the post's large donation to the police. Photo by Matthew D'Ippolito

The Schuylkill Township Police Department has one less major expense to worry about now thanks to the generosity of local veterans.

Phoenixville’s Ettinger-Powers-Campbell Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1564 presented a check for $24,158 to the department at Wednesday night’s township board of supervisors meeting. The money will be used to purchase state-of-the-art patrol rifles that can be modified with optical sights and lighting attachments.

“We certainly didn’t expect anything in this amount,” Schuylkill Township Police Lt. Bill Fitzsimmons said. “They’re funding them entirely themselves.”

After Post Commander Bing Gensemer presented the donation, members of the police department gave the post an engraved plaque in recognition of their help.

“Our community is fortunate indeed to have organizations such as the VFW continue to give back after having selflessly served their country themselves,” Fitzsimmons read from the plaque. He added that the vets truly exemplified the Marine Corps motto of Semper Fidelis, or “always faithful.”

The plaque was only a small token of gratitude from the department and the officers couldn’t thank the veterans enough for their gift, Fitzsimmons said in an interview before the meeting.

“It’s giving us a chance to upgrade tremendously, especially with the way budgets are these days. We’ll be able to fund this without taking away from something else,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said the project began with a chance encounter between a patrolman and members of the VFW. When the officer mentioned the rifle purchase, the post members began asking for more details. The department later made a formal presentation to the post.

John Lorusso of Post 1564 said once the post members knew what equipment the police department needed, they gave the go-ahead for a preliminary study to find the cost of the rifles before taking it to a vote.

“I grew up in Schuylkill Township, so for me it was a win-win,” Lorusso said. “It was supporting the place that helped to take care of me growing up.”

This is not the first time VFW Post 1564 has given financial aid to local emergency services. The group has given money to police and fire departments in all three municipalities in the Phoenixville Area School District before, including helping to finance the Schuylkill Township Police Department’s tasers, Lorusso said.

The post also gives money to other community organizations, such as the Police Athletic League, community health organizations and youth baseball teams in the area. The money is raised primarily through the post’s small games of chance.

The organization could use that money to support itself, but Lorusso said investing the money into the community was an easy choice – and helping equip the police department was especially fitting for these veterans.

“As vets, we were first responders when we volunteered to go off to war. These guys are first responders on the front lines of our own communities every day,” he said. “So that was the decision-making process that went into the vote. Do they help the community? Do they need the support? Will this equipment help them keep the community safe and help keep them safe?”

The answer to those questions, apparently, was a $24,000 yes.