A year ago, Legionnaires along the East Coast were picking up pieces, sorting through debris and replacing water-soaked drywall after Superstorm Sandy unleashed its wrath. The American Legion was there, providing financial assistance, food, drinks, shelter and support for those in need.
On the south shore of Long Island, Babylon Post 94 volunteers served meals, delivered canned goods to victims and organized fund drives.
In Windsor, N.J., Hightstown Post 148 became an emergency shelter for families, children and elderly who were displaced or without power. The post worked with businesses and restaurants to gather and dish out free meals for those in need.
In Maryland, the storm caused a fire that burned down the home of a military family. Again, The American Legion Family responded. Queenstown's Benedict A. Andrew Post 296 and its Auxiliary unit donated $3,000 to help the family start over.
And that's just Sandy, one disaster in a long line that has included over $1.7 million in relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and an immediate commitment of $1 million for those who suffered devastating losses after last spring's tornadoes in Moore, Okla. NEF dollars have indeed been put to the test in recent years. An outbreak of twisters in Alabama. Flooding in Colorado, North Dakota and Illinois. Wherever there has been urgent need, the NEF has been there, delivering grants, serving meals, providing shelter and comfort. Thanks to contributions from Legion Family members and supporters, the NEF has distributed more than $8 million in aid, one grant at a time, to qualified victims.
Help in times of crisis is one way The American Legion makes significant differences in the lives of veterans, their families and communities. That is why I made the NEF my main fundraising project for this year. To continue helping, we must keep raising funds, every dollar of which goes to those in need.
As I write this today, Legionnaires are at work in Colorado, helping repair damage, getting roads opened and trying to restore some level of normalcy. They are also accepting NEF applications and sending grants to veterans whose lives were turned upside down by the disaster. As much as we pray it won't happen, we know that new catastrophes will strike. Charitable, tax-deductible donations are the only way the NEF continues to soften the blow.
My NEF fundraising goal this year: $1 million.
You never know when, where or how future emergencies will happen. You can never speculate as to the total cost in damages. One thing is certain, though. Victims will be looking for The American Legion, and The American Legion needs to be there, doing what it does best.
"This is what the Legion does," Department of Illinois Adjutant Terry Woodburn said while helping feed victims and relief workers after devastating floods hit his state last spring. "When any assistance is needed in the community, if it's not the local post stepping up, it's posts around the area coming to the community's assistance. That's just what the Legion does."
I say we keep doing it.