When the nation began to shut down in early spring 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, it became clear to members of The American Legion Department of Pennsylvania’s District 12 that the support they’d provided for years to the Department of Veterans Affairs patients and residents at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center was going to have to change.
And so District 12’s efforts changed, using an adapt and overcome mentality to remind those veterans at the facility they are not forgotten. The district has found COVID-safe ways to help the facility celebrate such holidays as Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day.
And on April 3, the district provided those same veterans with some treats to celebrate Easter – the first holiday District 12 had to cancel last year due to the pandemic.
“It was so shut down you couldn’t send food,” said District 12 Canteen Fund Representative Nicole Guest, a member of American Legion Post 350 in Nanticoke. “It was so crazy, because no one knew (the severity of COVID-19).”
District 12 purchased strawberry-filled cupcakes from Schiels Family Market, which Guest said has provided food for similar efforts for years “pretty much at cost” or sometimes free. Cookies also were purchased, and a personalized banner made that read “HAPPY EASTER TO OUR HEROES!!! The American Legion LOVE YOU!” that was hung in the dining hall. The district also sent over balloons and a tablecloth, with matching plates and napkins.
“They’re allowing no more than 10 in the dining room at a time. But to know that banner was up and they were all able to be together with their comrades and eat the cupcakes and eat the cookies – I wish we were in there. It’s heartbreaking, because it’s now been past a year that we’ve been in (the facility). But they knew, with the banner and the cupcakes, that we’re there for them.”
While being able to find a way to honor the VAMC’s veterans has been uplifting to District 12’s American Legion Family, Guest said they’re ready to go back to honoring those veterans in person.
“We are all praying that this is going to happen soon, even if it’s only a couple of volunteers,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen soon where we’re allowed to have a big party. But what our prayer is that in the next couple months, as everybody does get vaccinated more and more, that we are able to have a couple of volunteers … at least go in and visit with them. That’s our prayer: to just go in and see them.”
In the meantime, District 12 will continue its current efforts. “We’ve been sending something in there every month,” Guest said. “They know the American Legion Family isn’t going anywhere. We literally are their family. Not just The American Legion, but the other organizations … that go in. There’s a good bond here.”
Whether it was bringing back Easter events, continuing to provide food assistance or opening post doors to those in need of COVID-19 vaccinations, American Legion Family members continue to think of community during the pandemic. The following are a few examples. Please remember to share what your post or your Legion Family members are doing at www.legiontown.org.
In Mountain Home, a food pantry opened by Alley-White American Legion Post 52 in March continues to provide essentials to veteran and military families on a weekly basis. Veterans, military personnel or a designated representative may receive food once a calendar month. No income information is required to participate.
American Legion Post 790 in West Covina has continued its collaboration with the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, hosting another COVID-19 vaccination clinic similar to one that took place in March.