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Monday, July 15, 2024

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CVAC Presents 2022 Valor Awards

Johnnie Walker

By Christopher South

SWAINTON – Veterans and their supporters gathered at the Avalon Links Country Club, Nov. 17, for a tribute to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated a dedication to helping military veterans in Cape May County. 
The Citizens/Veterans Advisory Committee (CVAC) held its 5th annual Awards Brunch where it presented its CVAC 2022 Valor Awards. This year’s awards went to John Prutting (Exceptional Veteran), The Greater Wildwood Elks Lodge 1896 (Exceptional Community Member), Angelic Health (Exceptional Business Supporting Veterans) and Rev. Deb Moore (Exceptional CVAC Member). 
An additional Valor Award was given to Mabel Jarworski, 98, of Wildwood, who was credited as being a pioneer for women joining the military. 
CVAC founder and Chairman Johnnie Walker said CVAC is coming up on 10 years as an organization. Still a small organization, it counts on donations from various supporters from around the county in order to provide services to veterans. 
Walker said the incident that prompted him to start CVAC happened on Dec. 26, 2012, when a Wildwood business owner called him and told him about a veteran who would very shortly be homeless. The man called Walker because of his position in the Disabled American Veterans, thinking the organization could help. 
“The DAV was in a financial crunch, just like all the other organizations,” Walker said. 
Walker said he very quickly learned about social media and he enlisted the aid of his grandchildren in putting out an appeal to help the man. Eighteen people responded, including a local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) director, who said he had a place where the man could live, but it would not be available for three weeks. The remainder of the group, who are still active with CVAC, paid for the man to be in a motel room for three weeks until the other place was available. According to Walker, the veteran moved in and still lives there. 
“I said, if we can do this for one vet on the spur of the moment, imagine what we could do if we had an organization,” Walker said. 
 Walker said attorney Bob D’Augustine provided the legal work to set up CVAC as a charitable nonprofit, and he continues to provide pro bono legal services today. Walker said CVAC remains a completely volunteer organization, saying the people in CVAC take no salaries.
CVAC, Walker said, is now known as being the only organization that can put a veteran in housing in 24 hours; principally putting them in a local motel room until more permanent housing is available. Walker commented that the summer rates of motels in the area make that prohibitive but thanked the Greater Elks of Wildwood for providing funding to help house homeless veterans. He also acknowledged Catholic Social Services, which has a program with Catholic Charities and the Veterans Administration (VA), that works on getting housing, employment, counseling and other services for homeless veterans. 
“People tell us in Cape May County there are not homeless, but believe me, there are homeless,” he said. 
Walker said it takes a village to make CVAC work, and he is thankful for all the help and support people, businesses and organizations provide in Cape May County. 
“I never found a place like Cape May County where people were so generous, giving, and who care about veterans,” he said.
Walker introduced Prutting, named the CVAC Exceptional Veteran of 2022, saying he was a U.S. Air Force veteran who went into medical services after the military. He eventually went to work for the VA, being assigned to the Cape May Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), first located at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center-Cape May, and then at the County Commons Plaza located in Rio Grande. He now works for Angelica Health as a Veterans Outreach Coordinator. 
“I really feel that I have the best job in the world,” Prutting said, adding that he spends his days communicating with military veterans.
Prutting urged those in attendance to continue to remember and honor veterans, saying a favorite quote was, “A man cannot die while his name is still spoken.” He encouraged people to speak to CVAC members and find out about the experience of working with veterans. Prutting echoed Walker in saying there were certainly homeless people in Cape May County, including veterans, adding, “And we can end it.”
A special CVAC Valor Award was given to Jaworski, who served in World War II as a secretary to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became the 34th president of the United States. Jaworski was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on May 13, 1924. She now lives in Wildwood. 
Thoughts? News tips? Email csouth@cmcherald.com or call 609-886-8600 ext. 128. 

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