Gold Star Mom gets IRS okay for charity with Bishop’s help

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Gold Star Mom Chrystyna Kestler with her husband, Dr. Frank Kestler, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, marched this past May in the Shelter Island American Legion Memorial Day Parade. Their son and step-son, Lt. Joseph Theinert was killed in Afghanistan on June 4, 2010.

When the IRS refused Chrystyna Kestler’s request for expedited approval of the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund’s 501(c)(3) status in time for a fundraiser in Greenport next Monday, she contacted Congressman Tim Bishop’s office. Mrs. Kestler’s 24-year old son, Joe, was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 4, 2010.

The congressman intervened on behalf of Mrs. Kestler, of Shelter Island and Mattituck, and helped secure the tax-exempt status for the memorial fund, according to a recent announcement from his office. The IRS previously had denied her request for an expedited approval, claiming that the upcoming fundraiser was “not sufficiently time-sensitive to qualify.”

Now the benefit can go ahead as planned. “We are deeply grateful for his sincere concern for our family,” Mrs. Kestler said.

The congressman said, “When a Gold Star Mother calls my office, we give it priority and find a way to get the job done. It’s the least we can do.”

A non-profit organization must secure tax code section 501(c)(3) status before it can solicit tax-deductible donations from individuals. As a result of the expedited approval, the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund, of which Mrs. Kestler serves as president, now has access to money raised so far in Lt. Theinert’s memory that has been held by the Shelter Island School and the Lions Club.

The upcoming benefit in the memory of Lt. Theinert will take place at Claudio’s on the Wharf in Greenport on Monday, July 18.

Those who wish can take the South Ferry vessel, Lt. Joseph Theinert, at 6 p.m. sharp from the South Ferry dock. From there it will travel to North Haven to pick up more passengers. There will be light refreshments and music by Joe Lauro’s “Who Dat Loungers” as the ferry cruises over to Greenport for more food, auction items and entertainment at Claudio’s. Tickets are either $40 or $10, depending on whether or not you sail to the event aboard the ferry. All the proceeds go directly to the memorial fund.

Those wishing to make a donation may send it to: Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1650, Mattituck, NY 11952.
For information and ferry reservations call 631-725-8363.

Mrs. Kestler said that the fund will offer scholarships to students who work hard for their grades, are not involved with drugs or alcohol and who are helpful to their communities. The fund this year is supporting scholarships at Shelter Island High School, Siena College, Valley Forge Military College and SUNY, Albany, all attended by Lt. Theinert, and Mattituck High School. The memorial fund will also make donations to the Wounded Warrior Program and the Fisher House, an organization that provides support, including free housing to wounded warriors and their families.

“Joseph Theinert’s heroism will never be forgotten and this memorial fund is a living testament to his life’s work to serve the community,” said Congressman Bishop, who plans to attend the Greenport event on Monday.

“Congressman Tim Bishop has been by my family’s side since Joe was killed in action. He has attended Joe’s memorial services and other events,” Mrs. Kestler said. “We are deeply grateful for his sincere concern for our family. Congressman Bishop’s assistance in obtaining IRS approval for our 501(c)(3) is just another example of how he cares for Gold Star families and veterans of Long Island.”

Mrs. Kestler talked on Tuesday about how helpful the congressman’s office was. “Especially Bilal Malik,” she said, adding that he was the contact person there, and the one responsible for passing along information and updates.