Editor’s note: This is a weekly series of Department Spotlight stories featuring unique programs and initiatives of departments throughout The American Legion. Department adjutants are invited to recommend subjects for their departments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the past nine springs, motorcycles have roared through North Carolina – all with boosting American Legion membership as the goal.
The Department of North Carolina’s “Pony Express Ride” features Legion Riders from all over the state riding from post to post. At stops they collect new membership and renewal forms and then return them to the department headquarters.
More than 120 Legion Riders participated this year and were followed by a caravan of vehicles transporting a group of Legionnaires that included Department Commander David Shore, National Vice Commander Fae Casper, National Executive Committeeman Jeff Joyner and Alternate National Executive Committeeman Patricia Harris.
“(The Riders are) one of the best marketing tools that we have,” Shore said. “Our Legion Riders just need a good excuse to get out to ride. It’s a great public relations tool, and it really gets the Legion out there. The exposure is tremendous. We have that caravan going down the interstate, and people come by and give us the thumbs-up, wave at us and things like that.”
Shore said this year’s ride traveled more than 900 miles and it is put together by both Legion Riders and the department’s membership team. “We don’t run the same route every year,” Shore said. “We started in the western part of the state (this year) and wound up in the far northeastern part of the state. And I’m not running a count at how many posts we stopped at, but I’m going to guess pretty close to 15.
“We had quite the caravan going from town to town. We went to several posts that have never had a department commander or a (national officer) visit. We had three red hats on this ride. The reception and the camaraderie at these posts was beyond belief.”
The effort goes beyond simply adding numbers to the Legion’s membership rolls. “We had some members on this ride that had never been on it before, and they were just floored (by) how good of a time we had and the reception we had at all the posts,” Shore said. “We had one year man in his early 30s, a disabled veteran, and he came along for the ride. When it was over with, he said, ‘What can I do?’ I said, ‘Do you want to serve on the veterans rehab committee?’ He said, ‘I’d love to.’
“We’re picking up members that want to get involved in the Legion. (A week after the ride) we had a program at one of the VA centers, and I talked to two different people. One of them signed up four new members after the ride, and the other one signed up three new members because of that ride. It’s a great recruiting tool – not only in membership, but also in participation.”