American Legion Post 974 in Franklin Park, Ill., recently conducted its third straight veterans stand down, providing food, clothing and other items to more than 100 area veterans.
For Post 974 Service Officer Anthony Siciliano, it was also an opportunity to remind the community that The American Legion is celebrating its 100th birthday.
“What better time, being the 100th anniversary, to do something like this?” Siciliano said. “That wasn’t the original intent of this event, but it was kind of a natural progression of things.”
The Jan. 13 stand down has become an annual event and drew more than 75 volunteers – many members of Post 974’s American Legion Family – to assist this year. Siciliano said the event was the brainchild of Auxiliary Unit 974 President Patricia Kowalski and has grown every year.
“The first year it was a little bit difficult getting the donations of the clothing, toiletries, blankets, etc.,” Siciliano said. “The second year was much better. This year was just unbelievable: the clothes, the donations, the food, you name it. It just worked out beautifully.”
This year’s volunteers included Post 974 Commander Josefina Frances and Unit 974 First Vice President Cathy Zito, who has organized the event every year. Members of Unit 974 and the post’s Sons of The American Legion squadron solicited donations within the community.
The day included a meal of ham or meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and pasta. Veterans also were presented with a bag of fruit and non-perishable food at the end of the day. Those same veterans also were able to choose from clothing, shoes and coats.
“Just watching these men and women finding something their size, the look on their face was amazing,” Siciliano said. “One gentleman found a pair of shoes in his size. He held them like he would a baby, and tears just came out of his eyes. When you see things like this, it leaves you speechless.”
Post 974 also brought in other veterans agencies to the stand down, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, to offer help that included housing, peer support, emergency financial assistance and benefits information.
“(The stand down has) been well-received, and we’ve decided to make it a yearly event for as long we can do it,” Siciliano said. “It’s well representative of what the Legion is all about … and what we are doing. We’ve got some many dynamic programs out there. It’s amazing.”