As the coronavirus pandemic moved into California and Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for the state’s residents, American Legion Post 289 in Riverside was going to have to close down its normal operations. But for Post Commander “Irish” Mike Buchner, that didn’t mean the post was going to be completely closed for business.
Buchner assembled a team of American Legion Family members that included Robert Rodriguez, Steve "Captain America" Rodgers Jr., Monique Clemons, Steve "Fingers" Dodson, Kathy Strickland, Trina Contreras and Amber O’Brien to assist other veterans in the post.
Buchner said the group created a menu and prepared meals for lunch and dinner that were available to Post 289 members for either carryout or delivery. The team also is going grocery shopping for its members, as well as providing much-needed – but safe – socialization opportunities.
“Some members that are having a hard time coping with the isolation and/or PTSD are welcome to come to their post and have a meal or just to talk to someone,” Buchner said, noting that 95 percent of the post’s chairs have been removed in order to practice “safe social distancing.”
Buchner said Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez and a city council member even visited the post on March 26 to check out what Post 289 was doing. “They were very pleased with (the) efforts and were quite impressed with (the) passion displayed to be there for their (Legion Family) members and have encouraged (the post) to keep up the great work,” Buchner said. “The police chief has offered to send donations (to the post) to help cover costs of goods.”
Buchner said the post also has contacted the Red Cross to organize a blood drive at the post, something that is being urged by American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford nationwide.
In Georgia, American Legion Sylvester Post 335 further showed how valuable it is to its community by assisting the Worth County School District and area churches in distributing breakfast and lunch items to local children.
“Many of the families in our area are in low income homes. Being out of school due to the (coronavirus) pandemic puts these children at risk of going hungry,” said Post 335 Commander Ray Humphrey, who also serves as Georgia’s 12th District commander. “During the week we help to distribute 1,000 meal packages a day.”
Humphrey said each meal package consisted of a bag lunch for that day, breakfast for the next day, and an assortment of milk, fresh fruit, fruit juice and snacks. On Fridays Post 335 also helps distribute an additional 250 backpack bags of healthy food items for the most at-need students to take home for the weekends.
“When all the students have been fed we hand-deliver any remaining food packages to the elderly veterans and at-risk members of our community,” Humphrey said. “We are partnered and working with great local churches and the leadership of a dedicated school system. Being an active member of our community, we were asked to help with this project. It remains our mission to continue to do so until this situation has passed.”
The following are a few more example of American Legion posts and Legion Family members delivering assistance in one way, shape or form to its members, veterans in the area and their communities.
• In South Gate, American Legion Post 335 is providing care packages to senior citizens sheltering at home. The care packages consist of a weekly supply of toilet paper, soap and food. South Gate city officials have set up a call center for seniors to use to request assistance. “We have close to almost 12,000 seniors in South Gate right now," Post 335 Vice Commander Robert Montalvo told ABC7. “Just from speaking to them the past week, the majority don't have anybody to help them out. They don't have family or friends. And they are very isolated in their homes and scared."
• Newport Harbor Post 291 is offering takeout food service via drive-thru from noon-6 p.m. daily. The goals of the program, Post 291 Commander Jon Reynolds said, are to provide affordable meals to the community, keep some Post 291 staff employed, and “serve a vital membership and community need.”
American Legion Post 328 in Riley is offering a free drive-thru cookout on April 4 to members of the community. The post will served pulled pork and sides.
After Iowa Boys State was cancelled, Montezuma American Legion Post 169 took the $500 it had set aside to sponsor two high school students in the program and donated it to a project created to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Michael DeJong was one of the students chosen to participate in Boys State; now he and his sister are creating face shield using a 3D printer and are donating them to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
When a group of veterans staying at the Fort Thomas, Ky., Division of the Cincinnati VA Medical Center had to leave the facility in order to make room for COVID-19 patients, Elks Lodge 314 in nearby Florence, Ky., wanted to find a way to assist the veterans.
According to WCPO, Elks member Maddy Cummins reached out to American Legion Boone Post 4 in Florence. "In less than three days, we had $10,000," Cummins told WCPO.
The money was used to provide food to the veterans, who were able to relocate to Joseph House in Over-the-Rhine. Area restaurants pitched in to assist as well; enough money has been raised to provide meals until May.
When business shutdowns kept the vending machines at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Reserve, four American Legion posts pooled their resources to provide snacks and drinks for the home’s residents. The home reached out to American Legion Post 383 Commander Allan Reynaud in LaPlace, who then contacted Post 396 in Metairie, Post 377 in Kenner and Post 565 in Vacherie. All agreed to help, and the four posts combined to purchase 25 cases of soft drinks and a shopping cart full of snacks.
“These residents can’t see family right now. They can’t have visitors, and it makes it really tough for them,” Reynaud told L'Observateur. “These are the most vulnerable of our population because almost all of these people have underlying health issues. Just being able to make life a little more comfortable and a little brighter for them is more than worth the effort.”
• In Ellicott City, Adams, Hanna, Moore Memorial Post 156 is working with the Howard County General Hospital and restaurants still operating in the area to deliver meals to the hospital staff. The post has volunteers lined up with appropriate vehicles to make deliveries to the hospitals from the various restaurants. Post 156 First Vice Commander Vance Blakely said once the protocols are worked out “we expect to hear soon that we can begin making deliveries of up to 900 meals per day.”
• In Dundalk, Md., Post 38 and its honor guard have offered to pick up and deliver groceries for veterans and spouses ages 65 and over, and disabled veterans or veterans with health problems in the area. The post will either pick up the groceries after the veteran has ordered them online, or actually shop for the veteran. The post and honor guard plan to offer the service until after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
In Dover, George B. Preston Post 209 has launched a food drive to benefit local food agencies, including St. Thomas Church in Millis and the Norwood Food Pantry. The post is collecting non-perishable food items and toiletries, and the effort will go on “indefinitely,” organizer Lauren Dutton told Wicked Local. “There is always a need to help families that need it.”
American Legion Paschall Post 164 in Grove City coordinated with M.A.S.H. Pantry and Resource Center of Central Ohio to distribute fresh produce to veterans in need. Post 164 Commander Jefferey Shipley identified members who were in need of fresh produce and arranged times for veterans to pick up or for produce to be delivered to their place of residence.
• In State College, American Legion Post 245 has been providing free hots meals for children in the area. Weekdays from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. families have been pulling into the post parking lot to pick up lunches that include chicken tenders or grilled cheese, French fries and green beans. “I have two kids of my own… and it’s nice for us to be able to do this for everybody else that has the same thing going on,” Post 245 Legionnaire Katie Snyder said. “So we figured we’d step up and do the free kids meals.”
• In Wrightsville, American Legion Post 469 has been handing out free lunches on weekends, supported by local businesses. "This is what the American Legion does,” Post 469 member Joe Taney told Fox 43. “We contribute to the community. Everything we do is geared toward the community and the veterans, so that's what we're about and that's why we're doing this.”
American Legion Posts 156 (Swansea) Post 12 (St. Matthews), Post 101 (Pelion) and Post 4 (Orangeburg) teamed up with Winner’s Edge Worship Center to provide enough food donations to feed 48 families.
• In Wausau, American Legion Post 10 and Bunkers at Tribute Golf Course have teamed up to deliver two-person meals to 50 veterans every Wednesday in the area. Veterans can request a meal by calling before 4 p.m. each Tuesday. Post 10 Legionnaire Thom Passow said the goal is to increase the number of meals in the future.
• In Sheboygan, the Camo Quilt Project – most of whom are American Legion Family members – has temporarily switched from making quilts for deployed servicemembers and veterans in nursing homes to making hospital masks.