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Taking the long view

Taking the long view
Department of Indiana Commander Michael J. Miller (second from right) visited the tornado-ravaged town of Henryville a week after the March 2 outbreak. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Indiana)

The Midwest tornadoes of March 2 killed 13 people in Indiana alone, and devastated small towns throughout the southern part of the state such as Henryville and Marysville. Immediately following the tornadoes, The American Legion Department of Indiana upheld a Legion commitment that started in the early 1920s — providing aid to Legion family members and others affected by disasters.

A department staff member visited the devastated areas to hand out information and forms on the department’s Education and Welfare Fund, as well as the national-level’s Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) and National Emergency Fund (NEF) programs.

The NEF was conceived as a source of assistance after natural disasters. It has provided more than $6 million in direct financial assistance to both Legion family members and posts devastated by tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and other catastrophes, keeping them in their homes and helping them begin the process of rebuilding. NEF and TFA applications are reviewed and signed off by department commanders or adjutants, who then forward the applications on to National Headquarters. The departments have no direct involvement in awarding the grants.

The Department of Indiana was able to make its presence felt in the ravaged communities. The staff member who visited the area found that posts and districts were already in action, distributing information and helping out wherever needed. A week after the tornadoes, two truckloads of emergency supplies — as well as some of the nearly $10,000 in money and gift cards that had been donated from people and organization’s around the state — accompanied Department Commander Michael J. Miller as he assessed the situation on-site.

While touring the devastation, Miller and other department representatives saw its scope — many of those who would need help getting back on their feet were not part of the Legion family, making them ineligible for the Legion’s NEF assistance. However, the department of Indiana was driven to help all those in need, so they conceived a way to do just that and to focus on needs that might come up later in time than the initial rush of donations that come in after any disaster.

During the department’s Spring Conference in April, the Department Executive Committee approved the creation of the Indiana Disaster Assistance Fund, which will offer grants to residents who continue to find themselves in need of resources when other sources of assistance may have been exhausted. To bolster the fund, the conference saw a donation of more than $12,000, as well as $750 in gift cards and an avalanche of school supplies — intended, again, for difficulties that may arise in the fall when children in the affected areas start a new school year. And as of early May, the fund was more than $21,000.

The Department of Indiana, like the Legion as a whole, strives every day — and through anything Mother Nature has in her arsenal — to live up to the Preamble of the Legion’s Constitution, especially "devotion to mutual helpfulness." To learn more about the Indiana Disaster Assistance Fund, visit the Department of Indiana’s website, www.hoosierlegionnaire.org, or contact Buzz Smith via phone at (317) 630-1259 or email, bsmith@indlegion.org.

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