Arizona Legion post boosting membership through providing resources
(Post 12 Facebook photo)

Arizona Legion post boosting membership through providing resources

In the past two years, Kellis-Draper American Legion Post 12 in Wickenburg, Ariz., has grown by more than 130 members. The post is active within its community, supporting the Boy Scouts and Future Farmers of America, hosting blood drives, and hosting or taking part in Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies.

But for Post 12 Commander Tom Core, the main reason for the growth is because for the past two years, the post has hosted a veteran stand down, bringing valuable resources together for the area’s veterans and their families. In a town of 8,000, the stand downs were able to assist around 400 veterans in 2023 and, most recently, close to 500 earlier this winter. Staff from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were on hand to provide more than 14 different services, including filing for benefits, inoculations, information on PACT Act eligibility, health-care enrollment and more. A similar event already is being planned for 2025.

Core said the reason for conducting the stand down isn’t to grow members, “But it’s a huge side benefit. And it also brings in other volunteers. We had a guy last year who came to the stand down … and now he’s 20-percent disabled. And now he wants to be a service officer to help other vets, That’s just one example. Those veterans that we helped last year now volunteer to assist others in need of help.”

Core said the idea for the first stand down came when “a group of us were sitting around trying to figure out how we could do the (Legion’s) Four Pillars. And talked the one thing we needed to do a better job of, which is bring the VA resources and assets to our small town of Wickenburg.”

Wickenburg is situated between two VA medical facilities that members of Post 12 use: the Carl T. Hayden Veterans' Administration Medical Center in Phoenix and the Bob Stump Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott. The post was able to get staff from both facilities to come to the stand down.Other veterans service organizations were in attendance, as was a local nonprofit that provides cell phones to qualifying veterans and judges from the Maricopa County Veterans Treatment Court. A grant from the state helped provide transportation to and from the stand down for veterans living in rural areas. Other services provided during the stand down included:

·         Free haircuts for veterans provided by a local stylist.

·         Catholic Charities, which helps set up homeless veterans with a place to live and services to get them back on their feet.

·         The Midwestern University Dental School provided dental hygiene checks and oral cancer screenings.

“What we said is we’re going to be all-inclusive,” Core said. “We wanted everybody to come and participate in the event who is in Arizona and helps vets.”  

To publicize the stand down this year, the post used donations from event primary sponsor New Day USA ($7,500) and sponsor Arizona Public Service ($2,500) for an advertising budget. Fliers were placed throughout the area, including in other American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and local businesses. More than 20 banners also were placed throughout the area, including at the seven team roping arenas located in Wickenburg.

“That’s how we got people here,” Core said. “And we did radio ads and newspaper print ads.”

Core also said providing the services the post did through the stand down also falls in line with The American Legion’s suicide prevention mission.

“It’s part of being a proactive Be the One,” he said. “We need to take care of the veterans before they get to the situation where they’re contemplating taking their lives. And the way we do that is by getting them the VA resources and assets early, not later.”