A United States Army medic and civilian who used his military experiences to help veterans and service members, Darren Manzella-Lapeira never shied away from someone in need. Following his death in August, his family established the Darren Manzella Lapeira Veterans Assistance Fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to provide emergency relief to local veterans.
Growing up in Portland and graduating from Brocton Central School in 1995, Manzella-Lapeira attended West Virginia University and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology. In 2002, he joined the Army and was trained as a medic specialist.
During his first tour in Iraq, he was awarded a Combat Medical Award for his courageous efforts providing medical service, while under fire, to wounded soldiers and saving their lives. After his second tour, he returned to the United States and began working with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in Washington, D.C.
In 2011, Manzella-Lapeira re-enlisted in the United States Army and joined the New York National Guard. He worked at the Canandaigua VA Veterans Crisis Line, offering a compassionate ear to veterans and service members who needed someone to talk to.
In honor of his service to our country, overseas and at home, his family established the Darren Manzella Laperia Veterans Assistance Fund. Through this fund, local veterans will be able to seek financial assistance for immediate needs such as rent, groceries and utilities with the help of the Chautauqua County Veterans Service Agency. The Agency also has trained counselors available to provide referral services in crisis situations.
For more information on the Darren Manzella-Laperia Veterans Assistance Fund, or to make a tax-deductible donation, contact the Community Foundation by calling 661-3390. Donations may also be made online by visiting crcfonline.org and clicking "Donate Now."