Veterans serve out of a love for their country. Military families make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of their beloved veteran. The American Legion Auxiliary Foundation exists to ensure that both are given the respect and assistance they deserve. That’s why Lynda Lancaster knew supporting the ALA Foundation with a planned gift was a great way to honor the many veterans she loves.
From a young age, Diane was inspired by her mother, who worked on a U.S. Army base. Diane knew that one day she wanted serve her country by enlisting in the military. “Going into the military was a dream come true, or so I thought,” Diane said. “Within a few weeks of arriving at Fort Stewart, my life would change forever.”
Olga Diupina just finished her first year studying government and international politics at George Mason University. Though she’s always had an interest in politics, she credits American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation with solidifying her passion for this subject. “It’s a life-changing experience for a lot of girls,” Olga said, “where they can participate in the government, learn more about it, and then take those skills into the world and become better citizens in their communities.”
Patrick Ward always thought of himself as an athlete. A fifth-generation U.S. Navy veteran, Patrick’s physical health was always very important to him. That’s why, when he sustained serious injuries while on active duty, Patrick struggled to be motivated in his everyday life. After 55 surgeries and an amputation, Patrick wasn’t sure what was next for him. Most days, even after his physical recovery, he wasn’t interested in getting off the couch. “I needed to get engaged in life again,” Patrick said. “When your options change, you need to change your life, because otherwise you can get in a bad place.”
Because of #GivingTuesday, Matt Walker’s voice was heard at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival
Music was Matt Walker’s first love. At the age of 15, he knew it was a passion he wanted to pursue. “For all these years I thought that I would go out there, start doing music and make an album and someone would hand me a million dollars,” Matt said. “It wasn’t like that.”
In the United States, women are underrepresented in government at all levels. In 2019, though women made up roughly 50% of the population, they held only 28.9% of state legislatures, and 23.7% of US Congress seats. Sadie Chamberlain, a 2019 American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation senator, believes that programs like ALA Girls Nation could help more young women develop the skills and confidence they need to change that norm.
In March 2019, a bomb cyclone hit Colorado Springs, Colo., and devastated The Crawford House, a veterans transitional housing center accommodating up to 13 veterans at a time. “I was called by one of my managers,” said Jerome Ford, U.S. Air Force veteran and program manager at The Crawford House. “Everybody was sheltered in place, so I had to remain in place until I could get there in the morning and see what was going on.”
During his time in the U.S. Navy, John Wickstrom worked in nuclear power in the engine room of a cruiser, sometimes not seeing the sun for weeks on end. While aboard, nearly 60 years ago, John discovered that one of his fellow servicemembers was an amateur leather worker. During his down time, John grew extremely fond of the process of creating, and that passion followed him home to Washington.
American Legion Auxiliary Texas Unit 33 President Christine Trahan joined the ALA in 1993 under the U.S. Marine Corps service of her husband. She was drawn to the work of her unit and how closely it followed the Auxiliary’s mission to serve veterans, military, and their families. Now, almost 30 years later, Christine is proud to be a part of a community that continues to fulfill the needs of heroic servicemembers.
American Legion Auxiliary Kansas Girls State program increases branding and awareness with help of ALA Foundation grant
The American Legion Auxiliary Girls State and Girls Nation programs reach thousands of young women across the country each year and help them develop and strengthen their knowledge of government and leadership skills.
Lisa Williamson’s journey with the American Legion Auxiliary began when she started bartending at an American Legion post. Later, she worked as an administrative assistant at The American Legion Department of Alaska, in Anchorage, for nine years. While working there, Lisa realized what it meant to be a part of the ALA.
“I learned the Legion is so much more than a bar — it’s a family organization,” she said.
All veterans deserve to be celebrated, and the American Legion Auxiliary volunteers at the Syracuse Veterans Creative Arts Festival in New York make this a top priority year after year. The event hosts dozens of local veterans in a creative competition and celebration, and, since 2014, the festival organizers have relied on the support of the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation Veterans Creative Arts Festival grants to enhance and promote the program.
Patriotism runs deep in Beth McGinn’s family. Many members have sacrificed so much, including her uncle, who gave his life at Iwo Jima to protect the nation. Beth’s father also served in World War II alongside all four of his brothers, and her grandmothers were both Gold Star Mothers. Despite the tragic moments her family endured as a result of military service, Beth never heard her grandmother complain.
For over 75 years, the American Legion Auxiliary Badger Girls State program has brought bright students from across Wisconsin together to develop leadership skills, learn the basics of state government, and gain confidence in their ability to make a difference in the world.
Jeri Greenwell has spent the past 53 years serving veterans, military, and their families through her membership with the American Legion Auxiliary. “Being the daughter of two Marines, it was instilled in me the importance of honoring the service of our military, its veterans, and their families for their many sacrifices, exemplary courage, honor, and dignity,” Jeri said.
The wheelchairs used by volunteers and staff to transport patients around the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical center in Augusta, Maine, were heavy, outdated, and cumbersome. As a part of a larger statewide effort, American Legion Auxiliary Maine Unit 81 decided to purchase two new Stryker Prime TC Transport Chairs for the medical center. Knowing each chair would cost over $2,800, unit members knew they needed to look for funding to help with this gift.
Carol Campbell’s father, James F. Gallagher, served in the United States Army in World War II from 1941-1943 and joined The American Legion after being honorably discharged. One of Campbell’s first memories was attending an American Legion Family Christmas party with her father and meeting Santa Claus. That memory was the start of Carol’s dedication to supporting veterans, military, and their families. Campbell has since worked the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary in several capacities at the unit, department, and national level. Through it all, Campbell keeps her focus on the cause.
At Pennyroyal Veterans Center in Hopkinsville, Ky., 50 homeless veterans at a time have a place to live and the resources to rebuild their life. By providing the basic necessities, residents are able to focus on going the extra mile to improve their situation. At the center, substance abuse and mental health treatments are available, as well as job skills training to help transition residents to independent living. One vital thing residents need for the best chance at an interview or to make a good first impression when starting a new job? Clean clothes.
Many American Legion Auxiliary members volunteer to serve our nation’s heroes during much of their free time. Or, if free time is scarce, they make financial gifts toward the cause. No matter your schedule or resources, there is always a way to contribute to the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary. Kathy Wilkerson, an 11-year Auxiliary member from Iowa, turns her volunteer hours into donations through a matching gift program offered by her employer.
As COVID-19 (coronavirus) has grappled all of our lifestyles, that hasn’t stopped some from getting creative when it comes to continuing mission outreach efforts. In collaboration with American Legion Auxiliary Arizona Unit 62, the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation, Veterans First, the Arizona Arts Commission, the City of Peoria, Ariz., private charities, and individuals, the Heal Her Art Women Veterans Wellness program hosts monthly social gatherings at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.
Volunteers from American Legion Auxiliary Illinois Unit 577 host events each week for veterans and active military at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center. Whether it is a simple Sunday bingo night, a more elaborate celebration for Independence Day, or their annual Christmas shop where veterans can shop for free for their loved ones, the Auxiliary’s presence is consistently felt at the center.
A longtime member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Rachel Grout’s roots ran deep within the organization. After joining the ALA at 17 years old, Rachel was an active member at Unit 193 in Winchendon, Mass., until she passed away last year at 100 years old. To show her appreciation and lifelong love for the ALA, Rachel left a charitable bequest to the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation for $5,000.
Each summer, nearly 16,000 young women participate in an American Legion Auxiliary Girls State program in their home state. In 2019, four of those high school students were given the chance to attend thanks to the generosity of the John and Patricia Bowell Foundation and the nonprofit status of the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation.
Thousands of veterans take part in local Veterans Creative Arts Festivals across the country each year. From there, some are invited to showcase their talents at the national level. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Raymond Douglass discovered a talent he didn’t know he had. “I have no formal writing experience or anything like that. I just write down what I feel at that moment,” he said.
ALA Unit 143 President Heather Swartz said, “She was one who would never miss a meeting and always volunteered to help. She was loved by all and is truly missed.” Barbara K. Smith was an active member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 143 in New Cumberland, Pa., left behind a legacy of being very friendly, kind, and caring.
Thank you for giving! With your donations, we have been able to help homeless veterans, educate America’s future leaders at ALA Girls Nation, assist ALA members who need help after recent natural disasters — and so much more. We are extremely grateful to those of you who support the American Legion Auxiliary and the ALA Foundation!
The mission of the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation is to positively impact the lives of veterans, military, and their families. To say that The Guardian House, a female veteran transitional housing center in Saratoga, N.Y., positively impacted the life of U.S. Air Force veteran Janet Harrington is a gross understatement.
For the first 16 years of her life, Carrie Davenport did not know the American Legion Auxiliary existed. Since she joined the organization 16 years ago, she has been a dedicated member of the Auxiliary, making great strides to improve the lives of veterans, military, and their families.
Leftover on the walls of the former Trapp Elementary school in Winchester, Ky., is an acrostic poem – TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More. That’s exactly what it took to start the transformation of this school into a transitional home for female veterans. Many American Legion Auxiliary units and American Legion posts have joined forces with Lady Veterans Connect, a nonprofit organization that works to end homelessness among women veterans, to make this dream a reality.
Through her time as a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Past National President Janet Jefford has had a unique opportunity to see and experience the impact the Auxiliary has on the veterans, military, and families they serve, but also on the members themselves. Jefford is no exception. She has experienced professional and personal growth opportunities through her tenure.
The ability to express yourself is vital for your mental health. For veterans, this process can be extremely challenging. Just ask Miette Wells. A U.S. Air Force veteran and survivor of military sexual trauma and Traumatic Brain Injury, Wells struggled to both express herself and be understood after returning from her service in Panama and Kuwait. She turned to journaling in an attempt to free her mind and get her feelings on paper.
In an organization where you can join at any age, Amanda Washburn is younger than the average American Legion Auxiliary member. But at just 25 years old, Washburn has just as much passion and drive to serve veterans, military, and their families as any other member. Washburn knows her generation of ALA members has different passions and skills than more seasoned members, and that’s a good thing.
Divide Camp is a place of refuge nestled in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon. Each year, it hosts over 50 combat-wounded veterans, with the goal of providing hope and healing through encounters with nature and outdoor recreation. As the camp grows, more resources are needed. In 2018, the need for a permanent kitchen facility emerged – transporting food for 50 people to the outdoor kitchen for every meal was simply too big a task. That’s when American Legion Auxiliary Department of Oregon District 6 decided to ask the ALA Foundation for help – in the form of a Veteran Projects Fund grant.
Chrystal Daulton, a program manager at the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters, celebrated her birthday this year by working long hours at National Convention. In short, that tells you all you need to know about Daulton – her life is dedicated to supporting veterans, military, and their families.
The PIER Center in Long Beach, Calif., is a place made by veterans for veterans. PIER (Partnership in Effective Recovery) focuses on providing homeless veterans with basic needs so they can begin to rebuild their lives. The center hosts daily free lunches, provides access to showers and laundry facilities, and supports veterans through counseling. No fewer than 30 veterans visit the center each day.
The American Legion Auxiliary’s Leaving a Legacy brick campaign is complete! Over $116,000 was raised to support our veterans, military, and their families. While we invite all our donors who ordered personalized pavers to come see them at our national headquarters in Indianapolis, we understand that not everybody has that capability. To ensure that everybody can see their everlasting mark, please enjoy these photos. Thank you for your support!
Jane Montaney of Ephrata, Wash., found out while visiting an American Legion Family conference with her husband in 1996 that her local American Legion Auxiliary unit was missing one member in order to make goal. That’s the day she signed up to join the American Legion Auxiliary.
Kansas soldiers’ home offers more inclusive art therapy class using new technology funded by ALA Foundation grant
Many U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical centers across the country incorporate the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. When Paula Sellens became the American Legion Auxiliary Kansas District Eight president in 2016, she made expanding these programs her focus. Her efforts led her to Fort Dodge Kansas Soldiers’ Home, where she now leads the Veterans’ Art and Rehabilitation Creative Arts program each month.
Arizona Unit 62 received an ALA Foundation Veteran Projects Fund grant to develop a wellness art program for women veterans. HEAL HER Art provides fun, stress-releasing painting sessions for women veterans, led by women veterans.
During World War II, Helen Babb Boots was one of the first recruits in the Women’s Army Corps. Her brother was needed at home on the farm, and she felt that someone from her family should serve. After her service ended in 1945, Boots developed a passion for The American Legion Family. She was a Legion post commander and eventually became an ALA department president. So, it is no surprise that when her American Legion Auxiliary unit needed to meet its quota, Babb signed her daughter up as a member, even though she was living in Europe at the time with her husband who was stationed there. Unbeknownst to Boots, her daughter, Mary Davis, would grow to love the Auxiliary and serve in its highest volunteer leadership position: as national president during the 2016-2017 administrative year. Not only is Boots the reason Davis became a member, but her WWII service is also one of the main reasons Davis remains such a strong advocate today for the Auxiliary.
Most American Legion Auxiliary members know that the ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation programs provide incredible leadership development skills for high school girls across the country.
But due to a lack of branding, some ALA Girls State participants will go through the program and never know who funded their opportunity to learn and grow as a leader.
Active in her community of Fairfield Bay, Ark., Lois Lemke was a longtime volunteer and supporter of the American Legion Auxiliary. A retired accounting clerk, Lemke was married to Raymond Lemke, a veteran of World War II, who passed away in November 2002. The Lemkes had three sons, plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Members of Palmer-Roberts American Legion Auxiliary Unit 214 have seen the lives of homeless veterans transformed at the Volunteers of America Veterans Resource Center in Cleveland.
Paula Raney has spent almost 30 years volunteering with the American Legion Auxiliary. After all that time spent serving, Raney knows it is vital to give financially to the ALA’s mission in addition to volunteering.
“It’s not difficult for me to balance between volunteering and giving,” Raney said. “I just do it because it’s the right thing to do. I enjoy doing what I can for this organization, and the giving is just second nature.”
The Pennyroyal Veterans Center in Hopkinsville, Ky., is no stranger to American Legion Auxiliary Fort Campbell Unit 233. The unit has been volunteering at the center each month since the facility opened its doors in 2012.
From volunteering at her American Legion Auxiliary unit’s veteran bingo night, to accepting a national appointment on the ALA National Security Committee, Sandy Seacat has run the gamut of service opportunities with the Auxiliary over her 28 years of membership.
Dr. Karen Benson saw something unusual as she walked through the halls of Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center Community Living Center in Houston. The group of six or seven veterans that sits passively in this hallway every morning was engaged in a spirited game of Family Feud with the Community Living Center staff.
Guest blog by ALA member Jeri Brooks-Greenwell
This year, our Department of Maine fundraising focus was to raise money for the purchase of Stryker Transport Chairs to present to our U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital Volunteer Service Department.
A 15-year American Legion Auxiliary member and 3-year member of the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation Board of Directors, Terri Wallace considers herself “Small Town, USA.”
“My personal philosophy is this — we have many members who come from different backgrounds. Some come from well-to-do families and can give big sums to the [American Legion Auxiliary Foundation],” Wallace said. “On the opposite side, some people cannot, so they give their time.”