Gary Ickes gives his five local picks

Gary Ickes, executive director of Stark County Veterans Commission, has been a military man his entire adult life. “I was in the service myself,” said Ickes, an Alliance resident who served in the Army in Europe for two years in the middle of the 1960s.

Gary Ickes, executive director of Stark County Veterans Commission, has been a military man his entire adult life.

“I was in the service myself,” said Ickes, an Alliance resident who served in the Army in Europe for two years in the middle of the 1960s. “After I was at Fort Sill (in Oklahoma), half my class went to Europe and half went to Vietnam.”

Ickes’ interaction with veterans began as soon as he became one. “I’ve been involved with veterans since I got out of the service in 1967,” recalled Ickes, who is a member of Charles C. Weybrecht American Legion Post 166 in Alliance. “… Over the years, I’ve probably held every office. I’m currently adjutant, and I have been for several years. I’m also on the executive board.”

In addition to being the Veterans Service Commission’s director, Ickes also is a service officer, a position requiring its holder to be a veteran.

“All the people here who deal directly with veterans are veterans. To be a county veterans service officer, you have to be a veteran yourself,” said Ickes. “The main reason is that sometimes it’s difficult to get veterans in for help. They’re proud. They don’t always want to admit they need help. They’ll more readily talk about their problems with another veteran.”

GARY’S FIVE LOCAL PICKS
1. STARK COUNTY HONOR COURT
“Honor Court takes veterans who may be charged with some crime—perhaps there has been drug or alcohol abuse—that could be related to their military service, and they work with the veterans and supervise their rehabilitation,” Ickes said. “If they complete the program, they can avoid going to jail. They try to resolve the problems instead of throwing the veterans in jail and forgetting about them. The Honor Court program in Stark County has been recognized as one of the best in the state.”

2. STARK COUNTY VETS CENTER
“The VA has them throughout the country, and we’re fortunate to have one in Canton,” noted Ickes. “The Vet Center is primarily for combat veterans. They have counselors, but it’s more informal, and it can be kept more confidential. That is important in certain circumstances because a vet can get help without it being permanently on his record. They also can do family counseling.”

3. SAM CENTER
“The SAM stands for Serving Area Military, and the center is in Massillon right next to the American Legion,” said Ickes. “It’s a place to go if veterans are down and out financially or have housing needs. A new veteran in town might need some help setting up, and the center could provide household necessities. A lot of times, I have people call and want to donate to help veterans. The SAM Center would be one of the places I would send them.”

4. PEGASUS FARM
“They have a program there—in addition to working with people with disabilities—for veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” explained Ickes, noting that plans are being discussed for Pegasus and partners to perhaps expand the program to veterans’ loved ones. “PTSD is not just a veterans issue; it’s a family issue. So, some people are considering whether the same atmosphere that helps veterans also might work with veterans’ families.”

photo by Bob Rossiter
photo by Bob Rossiter

5. REBUILDING TOGETHER
“It’s a group of volunteers that will fix up veterans’ houses. They build handicapped ramps, install grab rails or work on things that veterans need repaired around the house,” Ickes said. “Rebuilding Together is based out of Akron, but we have a group in the Canton area. They are able to reach out to do things to give help to veterans who need it.”

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass