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Bringing veterans together while keeping them apart

Free monthly event in Manhattan pays respect to those who served

The free, monthly veterans breakfast at Roadhouse Restaurant and Pub in Manhattan has social distancing guidelines in place.
The free, monthly veterans breakfast at Roadhouse Restaurant and Pub in Manhattan has social distancing guidelines in place.

For New Lenox State Farm agent Kevin Molloy, the best part about the free veterans breakfasts he co-sponsors are the stories.

Like the one a veteran told about his service in France. To drive through a washed-out road, the veteran and four other men cut down trees, laid them across the water and drove across them.

“They stuffed socks in their mouths so they wouldn’t bite their tongues off,” Molloy said.

The next breakfast will be held from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Aug. 10 at the Roadhouse Restaurant and Pub, located at 525 S. State St. in Manhattan.

This breakfast is free and open to all veterans. Sponsors are Molloy State Farm and Eddie Kural, Roadhouse owner.

To keep veterans safe, the breakfast buffet is suspended; servers will bring the food to the tables, Molloy said.

Social distancing is easy because the Roadhouse patio holds about 60 people, Molloy said.

“It’s got to be 25 to 35 feet wide and at least 80 feet long,” Molloy said.

If more than 25 to 30 veterans attend, so that social distancing is impossible on the patio, Molloy said the event absolutely will not move inside.

“Eddie’s a very cautious guy,” Molloy said. “He’d set up a couple of tables in the parking lot rather than turn anyone away.”

The purpose of the event is threefold: to honor, to educate, to entertain.

“We’re not just buying them breakfast,” Molloy said. “We’re showing them respect.”

He's had speakers come out. A representative from Will County Veteran's Services is usually there, too, Molloy said.

Veterans leave with a gift, such as little American flags or cookies decorated in patriotic symbols, Molloy said.

Five World War II veterans are regulars.

“They’re obviously the heroes,” Molloy said. “All the guys hang around the table and listen to them.”

Other events Molloy has sponsored or co-sponsored include Manhattan-Elwood Library District reading programs, food and toy drives and the Snow Angels: volunteers matched with a senior to keep driveways cleared of snow.

This past spring, Molloy helped distributed thousands of free lunches on Wednesdays to students in the Lincoln-Way area through the Manhattan Creamery.

“In my family benevolency was a big deal,” Molloy said. They instilled it in us that if we were in a position to do stuff, we would do stuff. We have an incredible business because of the community supporting us.”

Molloy said he hired his employees for their good hearts. Each November Molloy gathers with them to plan the next year's community outreach.

“We’ve got a blood drive on Sept. 2 and we do a shred day twice a year,” Molloy said. “We did 32 turkey dinners for 32 families last year. All this stuff comes from that November meeting.”

That includes the veterans breakfasts, which were suspended this spring when restaurants were closed, he said.

To give back to the community on a larger scale, Molloy is starting a foundation – Make Life Right – and is applying for not-for-profit status, he said.

“I thought, ‘If I do this, maybe 10 other people will do this as well,’” Molloy said. “Maybe I’m just dropping the crumbs that others will pick up and carry forward.”

For more information, call Molloy at 815-463-5800.

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