The needs of disadvantaged children weighed heavily on the minds of The American Legion's founders. As they assembled in Paris, St. Louis and Minneapolis that first year after World War I, the earliest Legionnaires fully understood that many of their comrades were not coming home at all. Their wives and children were now widows and orphans. Many newly discharged veterans were permanently changed – shell-shocked, gassed or physically disabled – and unable to care for their loved ones as they once did. America was not equipped to handle the needs of so many disrupted families. It was up to the Legion to provide what the founders called "a square deal for every child."
Over the years, the Legion has fulfilled that obligation in uncountable ways. Since 1954, one of the most far-reaching Legion programs to fulfill that core value has been the Child Welfare Foundation, which has provided more than $11 million in grants to worthy causes over the years. Last fall alone, the foundation awarded $666,670 in grants to 21 different organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young people who have been dealt difficult circumstances. (For a complete list of recipients and links to their sites, visit www.legion.org/childwelfare .)
Child Welfare Foundation grants are awarded for focused projects that help nonprofit organizations better communicate to those who need assistance. A CWF grant allows an organization to concentrate on the mission at hand – helping kids – by reducing some of the marketing burden. If you think about it, there is no better way to spread a charitable contribution dollar than by granting it for an effort to spread the word far and wide. It's a real multiplier effect.
I invite you to look at this year's list of CWF grant recipients. These are truly amazing organizations that make real differences in the lives of young people. Among them are the Children's Organ Transplant Association, Father Flanagan's Boys Town, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the National Autism Association, the National Children's Cancer Society and Young Marines. As just one example, I give you the National Exchange Club of Toledo, Ohio, which received a $25,000 grant to use in 2010 for its Child Abuse Prevention program. CWF funds were used so the 23,000-member organization could produce and distribute child-abuse prevention kits, along with effective "cheat sheets" that provide advice to help parents get through stressful times. "The Child Welfare Foundation grant is enabling us to better protect our children," says Genevieve Stults, a program specialist who participated in our Children & Youth Conference in September. The organization, she explains, has helped 691,000 parents break the cycle of abuse for 30 years and has created safer homes for more than 1.7 million children in that time.
The holidays are upon us. Our hearts and prayers, as always, are with U.S. troops in harm's way and their families. Many of us will take time to donate items, or fill care boxes to ship overseas, or help veterans in VA facilities send gifts to their families. I would ask that you also consider the Child Welfare Foundation in your giving plans this season. All overhead costs are covered by the Legion, so every donated cent directly helps us to "better protect our children." www.legion.org/donate