To date in 2020, The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund (NEF) has distributed $74,795 in grants to 20 Legion and SAL members and seven posts affected by natural disasters.
Since its creation in 1989 in response to the devastation of Hurricane Hugo, the NEF has provided more than $8 million in direct financial assistance to American Legion and SAL members and American Legion posts.
And even in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, when social distancing restrictions impact the ability to meet and rebuild, NEF grants provide members and posts with confidence.
“We’re thrilled that we have the opportunity to apply for it, we just couldn’t believe we got $10,000. That’s a good start for us,” said Cynthia Baughman, adjutant for Post 61 in Sumrall, Miss.
On Dec. 15, 2019 — the day after the post’s annual Christmas dinner — Post 61 was destroyed by a tornado. Two baseball fields on the property, leased by the post to Lamar County, were also damaged by the tornado.
“Whatever furniture we’ve got left, which isn’t much, is under (a) shed covered up with a tarp,” Baughman said. “It’s still furniture but I don’t know if it’ll be usable anymore.”
Post 61 applied for and received a $10,000 grant through the NEF. A separate bank account was set up for the grant and other donations aimed at the post’s rebuilding efforts.
“Of course, once we did get the grant and everything, got the account set up and all, that’s about the time all this COVID stuff started,” Baughman said.
“But we are going to rebuild,” she said, noting that post leadership had discussed some ideas for fundraising and rebuilding before pandemic restrictions kept them from meeting.
“We want to be able to make the property more accessible to our community,” she said, including the addition of a walking track around the property’s lake. And the county has taken care of fixing the baseball fields because of the lease.
Baughman said that with so many others in the community needing help, post membership has been reluctant to ask for support there, at least for now.
“There are so many people that need help; how can you ask people to help with something like that when some people don’t even have food, you know?” Baughman said. “When we get a chance (to get together), we’ll start thinking of ways to raise money.”
NEF funds available
The National Emergency Fund is available for American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members, as well as Legion posts, who have been impacted by natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. The NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership who have been displaced due to damages to their primary residence, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community are impacted. To apply for an NEF grant, please visit www.legion.org/emergency.