Kenneth Wideman; Milton Tooma, Adjutant; Rehova Nemo, Quartermaster; Gerri Sizemore, Auxiliary Pres.; Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors; Charles Spivey, Commander; Larry Daniels; Jim Hughes.

Second Baptist Church and Valli Produce were honored by local VFW Post 7186 for their support of United States Veterans.

The Evanston Post is named for Technical Sergeant William B. Snell, who gave up a promising boxing career to enlist in the Army. He is believed to be the first African American soldier from Evanston killed during World War II.

Each year, members of VFW Post 7186 and its Auxiliary find special ways to acknowledge and thank organizations, individuals, businesses and houses of worship that help them fulfill their mission “to honor fallen comrades, to provide resources for veterans and their families, and to act as a conduit to the Veterans Administration.”

Second Baptist Church receives Appreciation Award

Post Commander Charles Spivey presented the Appreciation Award “for unwavering support and recognition of United States service members” to Reverend Dr. Michael Nabors, Pastor of Second Baptist Church, 1717 Benson Ave., on June 22 at an informal ceremony in front of the church.

In accepting the award on behalf of the church, Dr. Nabors thanked VFW Snell Post 7186 and members of its Auxiliary for their service.

“The leadership of the post is unparalleled, not just in terms of highlighting the contributions that you have made for the nation, but the continued community work that you do right here in Evanston. It goes on and on, from generation to generation. You are the ones who are the bearers right now of this incredible work, and we are proud to be supportive in any way we can,” said Dr. Nabors.

Second Baptist Church is the first Black Baptist church organized in Evanston. It was established on Nov. 17, 1882, with 20 charter members who were former slaves. The group was composed of of 10 members of the predominantly white First Baptist Church, and 10 other village residents, according to information on their website.

“Members of Second Baptist helped start Snell Post, chartered in 1946,” Quartermaster Rehova (Gene) Nemo told the RoundTable.

Cmdr. Spivey said the Second Baptist Church-Snell Post 7186 relationship had come full circle.

“We’re still carrying on the legacy that they started 75 years ago,” said Cmdr. Spivey.

Before the ceremony concluded, Dr. Nabors brought to life the breadth and depth of Black military service when he shared his family’s participation in the military, dating back to the Revolutionary War.

He said both his mother and his father had uncles that served in World War II. An uncle on his father’s side served in World War I.

“And my mother’s maternal grandfather, John Jones, served in the Spanish-American War in Cuba. He was shot and blinded in Cuba. He came back, and was a farmer on a farm he inherited from his parents in Western Michigan…

“My mother also had a great-grandfather, my great-great grandfather, who served in the Civil War. His name was Isom Puckett Ampey. He lived in Indiana and found out that Massachusetts was going to be starting a Negro infantry, and it was the 54th – the famous 54th of Massachusetts – which was made into a movie, ‘Glory,’ starring Denzel Washington.

“Isom survived the war, but his brother, Thomas Ampey, was killed in the Battle of Fort Wagner…

“Finally, my fourth-great-grandfather served in the Revolutionary War. His name was Briton Jones, and he was from North Carolina. He was a slave, and the person who owned him said, ‘If you fight in the Revolutionary War, I will grant you your freedom.’ So he fought in the Revolutionary War, but didn’t get his freedom. It was quite a history,” said Dr. Nabors.

In “Black Soldiers in the Revolutionary War,” published on the official homepage of the United States Army, Elizabeth M. Collins writes, “Far too many [Black soldiers] returned to the yoke of slavery, some for a few years until their masters remembered promising to free them if they served, but others, having fought for freedom, were doomed to remain slaves forever.”

“African Americans have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during every major conflict since the American Revolution, even in times of slavery, segregation and racial discrimination,” wrote Sandi Gohn in her 2020 article, “10 Black History Stories of U.S. Military Service Members and Supporters to Commemorate Juneteenth” (

Although the nature of each of America’s military conflicts is different, the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States) has advocated for justice for veterans, service members and military families since 1899, when veterans of the Spanish-American War founded local organizations to secure pensions and medical care.

Valli Produce honored for participation in “Buddy Poppy” Campaign

Larry Daniels; Milton Tooma, Adjutant; Charles Spivey, Commander; Gerri Sizemore, Auxiliary Pres.; George Pennacchio, Valli Produce Manager; Rehova Nemo, Quartermaster; Kenneth Wideman, Cliff Washington, Jim Hughes.

This year, Valli Produce partnered with Snell Post 7186 and its Auxiliary by participating in the VFW nationwide distribution of “Buddy Poppies.”

Members of Post 7186 and its Auxiliary joined Cmdr. Spivey in presenting an Appreciation Award to Store Manager George Pennacchio “for participation in the 2021 VFW Buddy Poppy Campaign.” The group gathered outside the store entrance, at 1910 Dempster St., on June 22.

“On behalf of Snell Post 7186, we would like to present this certificate of appreciation for Valli Produce allowing us to sell poppies in front of their store.

“With COVID-19 this year, it was very difficult for us to do fundraising. So we really appreciate the store manager and owner for allowing us to offer poppies here. We wanted to come to the store and show our appreciation,” said Cmdr. Spivey.

The visit provided a rare break for Mr. Pennacchio, who oversees day-to-day operations at the bustling Evanston location.

“This award really means a lot to us. Snell Post 7186 is welcome any time,” Mr. Pennacchio told the members of the Post and Auxiliary.

Ahead of Memorial Day 2021, members of the Post collected donations and offered the bright red poppies to a steady stream of Valli customers. The store features 12 departments: Produce, Meat, Deli, Seafood, Dairy, Bakery, Imports/International, Floral, Wine and Liquor, Sushi, Gelato and Bulk Foods.

Zachary Robinson proudly displays his VFW Buddy Poppy.

The VFW Buddy Poppy program provides compensation to veterans who assemble the red poppies in VA Hospitals, and provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs, according to

Before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW conducted its first poppy distribution, becoming the first veterans’ organization to organize a nationwide distribution.

The red poppy became the official memorial flower of the VFW. The American Legion also has the poppy as its official flower, to memorialize soldiers who fought and died in wars.

The history behind the memorial poppy goes back to World War I, when Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D. wrote about the poppies that grew on battle sites in his poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

The name “Buddy Poppy” is a registered trademark. All poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the work of veterans who are disabled or in financial need.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.