The American Legion has been a strong advocate for children and youth since its inception 101 years ago, making Children & Youth one of the four pillars. This steadfast dedication has never wavered. And it’s that dedication to our children and youth that Legion Family members have shown since COVID-19 impacted families in communities nationwide.
When Nebraska Boys and Girls State was canceled because of the pandemic, American Legion Post 3 in Lincoln “was looking at other opportunities to serve the community” since they would not be sponsoring high school youth to attend the programs, said Riders Chapter 3 Commander Bruce Gubser. A post member lived near Pyrtle Elementary School, which serves a number of lower income families, and had the idea of paying off the outstanding lunch account balances of students.
The post and Legion Riders chapter contacted the school district about their idea and the response was “we really appreciate that,” Gubser said. Together, Post 3 and the Legion Riders paid off the balance of nearly $600.
“This will allow these students to start the next school year with a zero balance,” Gubser said.
“We were just trying to do our part in making sure our community members’ needs were being met, even in some small way. It was only a few hundred bucks but to those particular families I think it was probably significant.”
Dennis T. Williams Post 310 has been providing weekly food distributions to the San Diego community for around 10 years. After the pandemic hit, Post 310 teamed up with the SD Hip Hop 5K & Festival and the San Diego Strike Force indoor football team to distribute more than 5,000 meals a week to children ages 18 and under. This effort started the first of June.
Post 310 Commander William Smith said he was approached by leaders from the festival and the Strike Force about working together to provide what is normally around 1,700 meals to children in need. Each child receives both a hot meal and a cold meal packaged to go. Meals are passed out at Post 310 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Any leftovers are given to homeless members of the community.
Legion Family members help distribute the food, as do members of the community. The recipients of the meals are “very grateful,” Smith said, adding that it was important for Post 310 to be a part of an effort like this one. “It’s more of our responsibility. We have a responsibility to the community. We want to make sure we’re out there.”
The service to community provided by Post 310 is nothing new. Its Legion Family also provides school supplies and backpacks for local students, as well as hosts volunteer appreciation events.
“I always tell our members that it’s our responsibility to get out and make sure we take care of our kids, take care of our elders and those that are in need,” Smith said. “It’s one of the greatest things you can do as a commander and as a member of a post to make sure you give back.
“It’s our responsibility to do that.”