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Bolstering Mental, Physical Health Of Veterans

The Kaufman Fund Has Been Honoring And Giving Back For 33 Years

“My passion is to help veterans and their families,” says Wayne Kaufman. “It’s really simple. I just like helping people.”

Wayne, vice president of sales with Dalco Home Remodeling, has been in the home improvement industry since 1971 but what drives his emotional core is something else that goes farther back than that. In 1990, he founded The Kaufman Fund in memory of his late brother, Ralph, a U.S. Air Force veteran and St. Louis area philanthropist. As a decorated Vietnam veteran, Wayne also served with distinction during 1968-1971 in the U.S. Army, earning the Bronze Star and Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.

"Ralph served on many charity committees and boards. He was well liked and very generous, especially for children-related causes, like The Asthma and Allergy Foundation," recalls Wayne. "He'd be teary-eyed and overwhelmingly proud of what the Kaufman Fund has become and how many veterans the organization assists."

The Kaufman Fund Helping Veterans, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, supports St. Louis area veterans with life's basic necessities through food, shelter, clothing and medical care.

"When I started the Fund with just friends and family involvement, I told them this type of nonprofit would explode with activity and needs, and it sure did! We've been blessed with so many supporters, sponsors and individuals through the years," Wayne declares.

With Wayne's presidential leadership over the past 33 years, supporters of The Kaufman Fund created nine programs to help veterans in need (these programs are free to veterans and their families):

  • Legal Referral Program
  • Dental Referral Program
  • Mental Health Collaborative (access to assistance)
  • Chiropractic Referral Program
  • Food For Vets
  • Artist First for Veterans
  • Tax Preparation
  • Trees For Vets (more than 350 Christmas trees provided each year)
  • Winter Warm-Up (give away new coats to veterans dealing with housing insecurity).

Additionally, through the group partnering with other nonprofits in specific services, veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder receive equine and dog assisted therapy. Disabled veterans receive therapy through sports activities, too. 

"We hold six Food for Vets events each year, and have provided food for more than 2,300 veterans and their families," shares Wayne. 

To assist with a future Kaufman Fund food drive or to place a veteran on a recipient list, which starts 30 days prior to each drive, phone Ricky Elcan, retired master sergeant, at 314.200.5520.

Wayne says approximately 200 veterans participate in their dental system. "We even have the VA sending us veterans because the VA program doesn't supply dental care to veterans unless they are 100% disabled."

Anyone who would like to sponsor Trees For Vets should contact either Howard Berliner at howard@thekaufmanfund.org or 314.703.6306 or Al Finkelstein at al@thekaufmanfund.org or 314.497.8654.

Tax return assistance is available to veterans during the tax season on a complimentary basis. Tax Prep for Vets can prepare both federal and state taxes. Veterans are asked to provide all personal records needed to process a return, including W2 forms, 1099 forms, business records, proof of residence for dependents being claimed, childcare information, along with social security numbers and date of birth for all individuals being claimed. However, Wayne says The Kaufman Fund may not be able to do all returns requested due to complexity or IRS due diligence requirements.

"Tax Prep for Vets is done in partnership with local tax preparers and tax attorneys" he explains. 

To schedule a tax appointment for local veterans during tax season, call 314.530.9182 or email TKFTaxPrep@gmail.com.

Wayne adds that they receive at least 100 calls per month for legal assistance.

According to mental health research, art can help relieve depression and anxiety as well as improve reality orientation. It also is a pathway that can assist in recovering from brain injuries. The Kaufman Fund partners with Artists First to provide an expressive art program for veterans on Monday evenings from 3-7 p.m. at the Artists First studios located at 7190 Manchester Road in Maplewood.

Artists First for Veterans is a drop-in, nontraditional creative support program for current and former military members to develop positive self-identity, self-expression, spirituality, self-esteem and community re-integration. Wayne says no prior art experience is necessary.

In addition to Wayne, the fund's board of directors include Steve Rosenblum (served in U.S. Army Reserves) as vice president; Jim Marcellino (served in the U.S. Navy 1985-1989 and Reserves 1989-1998 with his final rank of chief petty officer) as treasurer; Matt Nyberg as secretary; and Shelia Schneider as executive director, spouse of a retired U.S. Air Force sergeant.

Wayne says until last year, the group was completely based on volunteers. Due to the vast coverage of their programs, Shelia was employed during 2023. 

The nonprofit has an impressive advisory board as well: Tom Ackerman, sports director KMOX radio; Matthew Andrews, LIUNA Local 42 Veterans Committee president; Stephanie Bahn-Poteet, M1 Bank Marketing & Community Outreach; Jeanette Bax-Kurtz, CPA and founder of Andern Consulting LLC; Hon. Douglas R. Beach, (USMC Ret.); Steve Behrends, owner, Video Solutions; Howard Berliner, retired Shoe executive; Dennis Cooper, senior vice president, The Federal Savings Bank; Joel Eisenstein, attorney, Vietnam veteran, USMC; Alan Epstein, The Outsource CMO; Al Finkelstein, retired human resource executive; Arnold Jacobson, D.M.D., general dentistry; Cindy Oberkirsch, director, Guest Care Panera Bread; Andy Rimmel, attorney, Pomerantz Sherman, LLC; Irl Scissors, principal, Gateway Government Relations; Frader Smith, veteran advocate, Past Commander American Legion Post #397; Howard Van Booven, president CP Charities; Ken Weintraub, retired senior development officer, St. Louis Jewish Federation; Anthony Wallace, owner, DeepStacks Poker League; and Yvonne Wesa, health, life and Medicare insurance agent.

The Kaufman Fund group provides grants to 30-plus other nonprofit organizations, such as Heroes Care Inc., AMVETS Riders Chapter MO1, Blue Star Families Inc., Folds Of Honor Foundation, Dogs For Our Brave Inc., Focus Marines Foundation and Jefferson Barracks POW/MIA Museum, Inc.

Debby Keathley, Kaufman Fund volunteer who works on events such as the golf tournaments and the annual Kaufman Fund Casino Night, says she loves that 100% of all event proceeds stay in and around St. Louis. 

"We've assisted thousands and thousands of veterans, and Our No. 1 goal is for more people to know about the Fund because that means we can help even more of them," states Wayne. 

314.202.2164
TheKaufmanFund.org

The Kaufman Fund 501(c)3 group has assisted St. Louis metropolitan military veterans since 1990 with legal issues, tax preparation and access to mental, dental and chiropractic care. The group operates ‘Food for Vets’ several times annually, provides Christmas trees to veterans and offers an expressive art program to enhance self-esteem.

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