Department of Michigan Commander Mike Buda, with Chris Moore, was the guest bartender during the Tips for Troops fundraiser May 7 at Post 459. Photo courtesy of Chris Moore

Michigan Legion family donate bartending tips to support veterans

Six years ago members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 459 in Grand Rapids, Mich., initiated the fundraiser Tips for Troops to help cover the cost of postage on care packages sent to troops serving overseas. The concept behind the fundraiser was simple – Post 459 Legion family bartenders would donate their tips from a shift to Tips for Troops.

The Tips for Troops events in 2010 were a success - $1,500 was raised that year. Since then, the Post 459 Legion family has raised more than $25,000 through Tips for Troops to support servicemembers, local veterans and their families.

“As our bartenders are generous Legion family members, they rose to the challenge with Tips for Troops, and it’s been hugely accepted by our Legion family membership,” said Chris Moore, a member of Unit 459. “We all have the same mission, which is working for and fighting for our veterans and their families.”

Donations collected from Tips for Troops fundraising events over the years have not only paid for care package postage, they’ve also provided financial assistance to disabled veterans, holiday gifts for Michigan National Guard families, supported the Michigan Freedom Center at Detro Metro Airport, and benefited the Department of Michigan’s Wounded and Returning Warrior program - $6,300 was raised in six nights for the program last year.

Tips for Troops events this year are benefiting the department’s Patriot Endowment Fund, which provides emergency financial grants of up to $500 to Michigan veterans. Three of the 10 scheduled events were held May 7 and 20, and June 3 at Post 459 and partnering Legion Post 208, where bartenders have raised more than $5,000

“When you find something that really appeals to the entire membership, it makes a difference,” Moore said. “The Legion family comes together and works together, and you’re much more successful as a post family and at raising money.”

The Tips for Troops fundraisers are publicized through Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and community calendars. Several of the events are open to the public, have live music from local artists and feature a Legion family guest bartender who is encouraged to bring in family and friends to increase attendance and donations. Moore also incorporates the support of local businesses to increase fundraising efforts. She’s received gift certificates to auction off and has had pizzas donated for event attendees to purchase with proceeds going to Tips for Troops.

“The community will support you when you are clear about where the money is going, and it’s a cause that they can get behind,” she said.

When sharing the program’s concept and success with other Legion posts to replicate, Moore said she repeatedly hears that “our bartenders would never do this. But it’s really just a matter of asking your bartenders. They not only will; they would love to. Our bartenders get so excited about (Tips for Troops events) and have no problem donating a shift of tips. They work here because they care about our mission.”

The fundraisers have also brought in new Legion members and created a competition amongst the bartenders on who can raise the most money.

“Our Legion family membership support for Tips for Troops has been amazing, and it’s gotten better every year,” Moore said.