In September 2008 in Sainte Genevieve, Mo., an American Legion Riders chapter learned that a home for at-risk girls might be forced to close its doors due to a lack of funding caused by the economic downturn.
Since 1953, the Missouri Girls Town has provided residential and outpatient opportunities for abused and neglected girls ages 8 to 21. The home was nearly forced to shut down last fall after a failed sewer inspection revealed the need for a newer, larger system which would cost $120,000. The Missouri Girls Town was able to raise $35,000, but could not obtain grants to cover the remaining amount. It looked like residents were going to be put back into difficult domestic situations or placed into foster care.
But Gayle Langan and Legion Riders Chapter 150 stepped in. Langan, a 25-year Air Force veteran and Legionnaire since 2007, and the Riders chapter were determined to save the home. They embarked on a fundraising campaign with Post 150, which started with a $1,000 donation that grew to $75,000. They spoke at local radio stations to drum up support. They rode to Legion posts and local businesses to secure more donations. Their biggest accomplishment came when they coordinated a Poker Run, where they stopped at posts in Missouri and Illinois and raffled off items donated from local businesses.
Langan and her chapter rode 305 miles to present the money to the Missouri Girls Town. At the time, the home was holding an open house, and occupants and administrators weren’t aware of the Riders’ incoming donation. The amount of money that was raised was announced, and residents met the Riders with warm embraces.
Langan says the moment forced tears from her and some of her fellow Legionnaires.The sewer system is now up and running, and the home showed its appreciation by naming the fundraising effort the “American Legion Riders Chapter 150 Rescue Project.” The chapter later donated 19 bookcases as a Christmas present.