Class dinner benefits West Haven veterans museum

Tom Acri’s eighth grade social studies class at West Shore Middle School is planning a fund-raising dinner to benefit the West Haven Veterans Museum and Learning Center.

The dinner, which will be catered by Lasse’s Restaurant in Milford, will take place May 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the school cafeteria, and will include ziti, meatballs, salad, and bread. The class will provide desserts.

Acri’s classes have been hosting these dinners for about 18 years, culminating their studies and giving the students a chance to give back to the veterans who have served the country.

“I’m happy to be a part of this,” said student Benjamin Ukehaxhaj. “The veterans put their lives on the line for us. This is the least we can do for them.”

Every year sees a different group or organization benefiting from the West Shore fund-raiser. Past year proceeds have gone to a veterans charter fishing organization, temporary housing for soldiers, a female veterans group, and similar programs. The first year the event was held, proceeds went to construction of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., and Acri said students who took part in that effort, now grown, have visited the memorial and returned to tell him how special it was to see the memorial they had worked to help fund.

Alexis Broderick, one of the students working on this year’s dinner, credited Acri with coming up with the West Haven museum to benefit from the fund-raiser. She said the class agreed it was a good cause.

The museum, located at 30 Hood Terrace in West Haven, opened in 2010, and its collections include weaponry, uniforms, field gear, and equipment used to support troops from the American Revolution to the present, according to the museum website.

The learning center’s library contains more than 1,000 books, as well as some rare documents written by the men who served in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, Mexican Border War, World War I, World War II, and current conflicts.

There is also a Wall of Honor, which features electronic displays of area veterans and their stories.

“The museum’s mission is to honor Connecticut men and women who served our country during times of conflict and during disasters. They aim to protect and preserve artifacts to present to the public,” Acri’s students explained as they have gone in search of publicity and donations for their fund-raising dinner.

Donations include items that will be raffled at the dinner, including Yankees tickets and gift cards from local businesses.

One member of the class, Samie Boyle, said the students started by mailing invitations to local politicians and others they thought would be interested in attending the dinner, then seeking donations and working on the program for the event.

Student Phoebe Fiore said it would be great to get between 150 and 200 people at the dinner. Members of the class said they think they can raise at least $1,000 for the museum.

“I think we can make $1,000 or more,” said student Logan Dressel. “It’s a good cause.”

Angela Turdo, a paraprofessional educator who has worked with Acri all these years on the annual dinners, spoke highly of the museum, especially the Wall of Honor that highlights the stories of local veterans. A representative of the museum is expected to attend the dinner.

Student Angel Santiago said the class hopes the dinner helps raise not only funds but also awareness of the museum. The seven-year-old museum is, after all, relatively new, added student Matt Francoeur.

The students are still working on the event, and still have to make a banner and signs, and, of course, they will be on hand the night of the event to help out and greet their guests.

Turdo said she is a bit sad because she will retire this year and therefore this will be the last year that she and her husband help organize the dinner. She thinks the effort is very worthwhile because it helps children meet veterans and understand what they went through.

Student Spencer Deer said his two grandfathers fought for the country, and Acri’s class and preparing for the dinner have made him feel a greater connection to them.

Dinner prices are $15 for adults, and $10 for veterans, seniors and children under age 10.

People can just show up and buy tickets at the door, but Acri would appreciate an RSVP for an approximate head count. Contact Acri at 203-783-3553 or

For information about the museum, go to