What will 50 cents get you these days? Maybe a small cup of coffee, perhaps a gumball for a grandchild or a stamp. Fifty cents, however, will go a long way toward helping members of The American Legion Family or posts that are struck by natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, flood strikes or wildfires.
During my national commander's acceptance speech last month in Houston for the 95th National Convention, I set a $1 million fundraising goal for the Legion's National Emergency Fund (NEF) program. It's a lofty goal, but it comes down to just 50 cents per member.
We don't know when or where the next disaster will occur, nor do we know how severe it will be. We do know that Legionnaires, posts and family members will need assistance as they recover from a tragedy. NEF donations help Legion Family members pay bills, such as temporary housing, food and clothes, while they wait for insurance money to kick in. NEF has also helped posts refurbish or rebuild after a disaster.
In the past year, the NEF program has granted nearly $750,000 in assistance for qualified veterans. Money has gone to victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey, as well as those recovering from tornadoes in Moore, Okla., and flooding in Marseilles, Ill.
Posts are encouraged to take an active role in raising funds for NEF and there are many easy ways to drive donations, such as a motorcycle rally, a fish fry or a golf outing. Posts should also consider partnering with an Auxiliary unit, Sons squadron or Riders chapter in order to receive greater participation and to promote the event more effectively.
And remember, as you hold fundraisers or ask for contributions, be sure to let prospective donors know that 100 percent of donations go toward grants for Legionnaires, posts and family members who are dealing with the after-effects of an emergency situation. All marketing and promotional costs are paid by National Headquarters.
Final touches are being put on a new series of NEF brochures that are aimed at assisting department and post leaders on best practices before, during and after an emergency. When the brochures are completed, review the documents and identify NEF coordinators who can familiarize themselves with what can be done ahead of time and how to respond during a disaster in your community. Part of those efforts include distributing the checks to those in need. Their payout is our organization's payoff for a successful fundraising campaign.
Thank you in advance for your ongoing generosity.