The past two weekends Newhall American Legion Post 507’s Legion Family has teamed up with the Santa Clarita Grocery, and the first-responders and military group the Guardians to provide a Veterans Appreciation drive-thru hot dog lunch for area veterans and their families.
But for Sons of The American Legion Squadron 507 Commander Mike Merlo, the two days were much more than free meals and a chance to thank those who served. It was a safe break from stay-at-home for those veterans who may be struggling even more with the new norm of little or no personal contact with the outside world.
“Especially the Legion members that are used to having a place they can call home, which would be their post – they’re comfortable there, they’re used to having some sort of social interaction,” Merlo said. “Some of them, it may have taken them years to get to a point where they even are comfortable going out and having social interaction.
“For that to all be pulled out from under them, just like anybody, there’s a lot of depression going on for I think almost everybody across the United States. That was kind of the magic of this idea that Brad came up with: It’s a possible but also responsible way of having people get out of the house and not put themselves in any type of harm.”
“Brad” is fellow SAL Squadron 82 member Bradley Grose, who founded Santa Clarita Grocery as a “charity grocery store” that provides perishable groceries, dairy products, produce, bread and basic necessities to families in need. “He had this idea about veterans that were caught up with being inside their house, kind of captive, afraid to go out because they may get sick,” Merlo said. “He came up with this idea about barbecuing hot dogs and having them just do a drive-thru where they can get out, take a drive, get a safe meal and be on their way.
“It was just a bunch of like-minded people and organizations coming together and just trying to do something nice for our veterans.”
Grose said pairing up with Post 507 was an easy choice. “What we like to do as a charity is team up with like-minded people,” Grose said. “Being that I’m with the Sons out here in Newhall, I thought it’s just a natural.”
The effort resulted in 160 hot dogs being served on May 16 and another 200 on May 23. And with masks worn, social distancing happening and the drive-thru setup, all the necessary precautions were taken.
“We haven’t had any people come that have been fearful,” Grose said. “They’ve come, and it’s just put a big smile on their heart. That’s what I would say.”
The following are just a few more examples of American Legion Family members stepping up to assist others during the coronavirus. Please remember to share what your post is doing at this time at www.legiontown.org.
After the local post office postponed its annual food drive in support of the Derby Food Pantry, American Legion Post 408 stepped in to help. Post 408’s American Legion Family joined up with American Legion Posts 136 (Mulvane), 4 (Wichita) and 90 (Wellington) to stage a food collection ride that generated more than 1,100 pounds of food to donate to the pantry.
Post 408 previously has assisted the pantry by hosting pancake breakfasts. “We felt like this was a good opportunity for us to pitch in and help out again,” Post 408 Public Relations Officer Michael Saindon told the Derby Informer.
In Wyandotte, American Legion Post 217 is going to hand out 400 boxes of food provided by Gleaners Community Food Bank to veterans, senior citizens and other families in need on May 29. The distribution effort will be via a drive-thru and encourage safety and social distancing.
• American Legion Post 56 in Albert Lea is teaming up with the United Way of Freeborn County to form the Veterans United program to assist veterans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Post 56 identified potential needs and suggested conducting a food drive. On May 27 the partnership will result in a pop-up food pantry; those unable to attend can have boxes of food delivered via Post 56’s American Legion Riders. The post and the United Way also will assist homebound veterans with grocery ordering and delivery, and are recruiting volunteers to assist with chores such as mowing lawns, cleaning gutters and other home maintenance for those families with deployed servicemembers. “I just hope that the veterans actually use this, and that they’re not afraid of anything,” Post 56 Commander Jeff Olson told the Albert Lea Tribune. “We’re here to help, we’re here to support them. That’s the goal.”
• In Eagan, American Legion Post 594 annually has honored high school seniors who have committing to joining the U.S. Armed Forces after graduation. That tradition continued this year despite the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony was moved from Eagan High School to the Central Park Pavilion, and the seniors and their family members were asked to remain in their vehicles during this ceremony. The students usually get a chance to stand up and speak, but this year Post 594 Commander and ceremony emcee John Flynn shared their stories. Each student also received individual resolutions from the Minnesota State Senate and House of Representatives, as well as an American Legion Certificate of Commendation and a branch-of-service pin from Post 594, and a plaque from Eagan High School.
Col. Jacob Morgan American Legion Post 537’s Legion Family in Morgantown donated $500 worth of canned goods to Twin Valley Food Pantry. The pantry reached out to the post for assistance.
"We will give them whatever they need, we are here to help our community and our veterans,” Post 537 Commander Troy Trupe told Berks-Mont. “During this time of the shutdown many people are hurting, and we will do what we can to help."
In Cross Plains, American Legion Post 245 teamed up with the Boy Scouts to conduct a no-contact donation drive to collect food and cleaning supplies for the Black Earth Food Pantry.