Originally Appeared in The Orleans Hub
By Thom Jennings, Correspondent
SHELBY – It’s shortly after 4:00 a.m. on a rainy Saturday morning in Shelby, but the spirits of the visiting veterans and volunteers at the newly christened Warrior House are not dampened.
“That’s why they call it water fowl,” one of the volunteers quips when asked if the morning hunt will take place in the rain.
Thirteen injured veterans were the guests of honor for the first weekend of what is dubbed “Operation Restoration,” a new program that brings wounded veterans together for a weekend hunt at a house on Salt Works Road in Shelby.
Just a few weeks ago the residence that now serves as a sleeping quarters was cleared out and cleaned up by a small army of volunteers, many of them from the Akron Free Methodist Church.
The kitchen now houses new appliances, donated from various individuals and businesses and what once served as a living room is now filled with newly constructed beds, built with volunteer labor from the Christian Youth Corps, a group based in Delevan, NY.
The concept of The Warrior House was developed in May of this year, not long after Peter Zeliff Jr. purchased the property on Salt Works road, which at one time was a commercial hunting business. A conversation between Zeliff and tractor salesman Joe Pionessa led to what became a series of organizations and individuals working together to make the first weekend hunt possible.
By 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, Doni Roehling cooked over a dozen breakfast sandwiches and the hunters began gathering their commemorative goose calls and headed to the blinds.
By 5:00 a.m. the house was quiet, with just a few volunteers staying behind to clean up, including Zeliff and his seven-year-old son Owen.
In less than six months the Warrior House has become a reality, and what was originally supposed to be an initial group of 10 hunters became 13, five came through Chappy’s Outdoors and eight from Operation Injured Soldier.
By the conclusion of the weekend the group harvested over 60 geese, and several pheasants and pigeons, all while enjoying the camaraderie and support of volunteers and fellow military veterans.
This past weekend’s hunt is only the beginning of Zeliff’s long-term plans for The Warrior House. The second group of injured veterans will arrive the weekend of Oct. 30, and there are plans for other groups to utilize the property over the next year.