Unit #127…We’re one of the best
September 15, 2011
The National Convention of the American Legion and Auxiliary was held August 26-31 in Minneapolis where Ehrig-McTurk Unit #127 of Gladbrook was recognized as one of the five best Units in the Nation! We owe this honor to the great project chairman of five of our committees, Children and Youth: Joan King, Education: Sue Koster, VA&R: Pat Oettchen, Junior Activities: Jeanne Paustian and Community Service: Karen Pieper. This narration and pictures is part of the reason we are so proud! A slide video of National’s presentation will be shown at the November meeting. If you should point your finger into the center of an Iowa map, you would be in the middle of some of the best farming land in the nation and that is not too far from the small mid-western community of Gladbrook or Happy Creek, if you wish. We are located in the northwestern corner of Tama County with a population, give or take a few, of 900 friendly, smiling folks who live here to commute to Waterloo or Marshalltown, work in the local coop, have a local business or are retired from the large farming area we serve. The Ehrig-McTurk American Legion Post #127 was established here in 1919 with The American Legion Auxiliary organized shortly after. Through the years, the organization has been an important part in keeping our community viable through our volunteer work and the projects we support. Our population has not grown, we have lost our high school due to consolidation, churches have closed and we have empty stores on main street, but we still work together to improve ‘our town’ and keep it ‘alive and growing’. In 1989, a new community Memorial Building was built and dedicated under the direction of the Post and Unit. This is one example of the cooperation between the Post and Unit as they invited us to help plan the kitchen and one member received the Governors Volunteer Award for her part in coordinating the volunteers. The committee that oversees the building is made up of both Legion and Auxiliary members who take care of rentals, purchase supplies and make sure the floors are scrubbed and the windows washed. It is used for graduation/wedding receptions, fund-raisers, dances and is provided free of charge for meetings of any local youth group as well as just a nominal maintenance fee for their fund-raisers. The community holds a 4 day summer ‘Corn Carnival’ that draws from 5-6 thousand folks to watch the Friday night parade. Last year (2010) the local WWII veterans were honored as Grand Marshals. They met in the Memorial Bldg where the Auxiliary served a light supper, each received a poppy corsage and a cap designating their honor. People movers hauled the 37 veterans able to attend through the parade as they were greeted with waves, salutes and standing ovations. What an evening for them! A local church and the Legion/Auxiliary man a large food stand at the carnival which is our main money maker. Volunteer workers, many both church and Legion/Auxiliary members, build and run the stand, bake the 350 plus pies and know the project is also a service to the community. In 2006, AmVet and Legion members met with an idea to build an All Veterans Memorial to honor those who have served from the Lincoln-Gladbrook communities. Again with the help of the Auxiliary to do the paper work, the project is now complete, but still growing as two more memorial tables were just built and added to the original eight. Each table holds 96 memorial bricks. We are a small town and we are very proud of who we are, what we do, the people we represent and the accomplishment we achieve every year. Yes, we have gals ask if they can join and this year (2011) we have again met our membership goal of 252, to a total of 257 (five over goal). We have a 50 member Junior Auxiliary that meets once a month September to April and helps to distribute poppies in May. They meet at the local nursing home where the residents especially enjoy their enthusiasm and energy as they make favors for Senior Citizen dinners, Iowa Veterans Home, nursing home, Independent Living, and the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City. Each new baby receives a ‘birth certificate’ as a first year membership gift signifying how she is eligible to be a part of the Auxiliary. As the most active Junior group in our District, we are honored to have had the president for several years. One member served as the Department Chaplain and one served as the National Honorary Junior President in 1987-88. She now serves on the National Finance Committee. The Juniors present a candlelight Christmas program to the joint meeting of the Post and Unit in December and then enjoy a party of their own with a gift exchange followed by a movie, thanks from the Auxiliary. Our new members and spouses are welcomed at our January meeting as we are all guests of the Legion at their annual Oyster Stew/Chili supper to thank us for our help to them. We also invite the local volunteer ambulance service and fire departments. We have an initiation program where each new member receives a membership pin, is acquainted with our preamble and how we conduct our meetings. Our service projects throughout the year keep all the members involved as everyone able is assigned to one of seven ‘work groups’. Each has 15 members with rotating co-chairman, so everyone is involved and able to work on at least one project a year without the officers having to ‘call on the members at the meeting’. This has worked very well for us, as attendance at meetings is restricted to the older members, while others are working full time and involved with their children’s school activities. Two of our members have served as District President, and one has served on several Department committees. Several members hold District offices and committee positions. We also have members who serve as County officers and with the County Legion organization have an ice cream social each summer to raise money to help the Marshalltown National Guard Unit and their families. A project this year is to help with a Skype internet satellite connection so they communicate with their families from their remote deployment area in Afghanistan. Americanism Chairman held her first Labor Day program at the nursing home where residents could reminisce about the ‘jobs’ they had held over the years. What wonderful stories. She also has a program there for Veteran’s Day as the veterans are recognized for their service with the Juniors serving lunch and also a Flag Day program, with a program on the flag, a flag folding by the Juniors and when a new flag is presented to the facility. She also presents Americanism programs at two elementary schools presenting ‘Eddie the Eagle’ and ‘United We Stand’ videos along with a flag etiquette program. Children and Youth Chairman, was responsible for collecting comfort items for our servicemen and women. A large collection came from the churches and elementary school children, with one box sent especially to one of our Post members and his group in Afghanistan. Our VA&R chairman organizes spring and fall sewing sessions where jeans, sheets and other cotton materials are cut, sewn, balled and donated to the Iowa Veterans Home for their rug making project. This project is a sit-down job that our older members enjoy. Our Education chairman supported the ‘Give 10 for Education’ by giving school supplies to the elementary students. She also invited one of our WWII veterans, who served as a medic during the landing on the beaches of Normandy, to talk to the 8th grade History class for the ‘Veterans in the Classroom’ program. One of the students was his grandson and probably had never heard ‘grandpa’s’ story. One of our newest members elected to serve as the Community Service Chairman and is she a busy and energetic gal. She loves to serve meals, complete with appropriate decorations and this year had a ‘Fall Gathering’ at the Independent Living facility, serving fried chicken and homemade pie. Of course, the games she chooses are fun too. The Senior Citizens monthly dinners had been in danger of stopping, but with her leadership and the help of the Auxiliary, local churches and organizations, they were started again. The first had 60 attending, second 65 and the City Center with its Festival of Trees welcomed 75 at the Christmas outing with our Juniors providing the favors. This activity is a great way to show our community how we can share and care. Our VA& R chairman holds two sessions of sewing where members cut, rip and sew carpet rags so residents at the IVH may continue their rug-making project. Over 300 pounds of jeans and sheets were processed. Other Auxiliary community projects include popcorn balls for the Commercial Club Santa sacks, opening day of School flag-raising with a short program and a new school flag raised by the Juniors. We make over 200 memorial wreaths for the military graves at five cemeteries, help the Legion with the Avenue of Flags by placing small flags, and the program at the All Veterans Park on Memorial Day. We also serve a dinner to over 175 folks who come to remember. We recognize our Gold Star Sister and give membership awards at our annual May Mother’s Day Tea. An initiation of Junior to Senior membership is done with the District and Department presidents participating. This year we are holding a couple of afternoon meetings at the local nursing home where we have members residing. This also enables those who do not care to get out at night to attend a meeting. Merit Awards are given to four selected Senior students and we send a representative to Girls State each year. They, in turn, tell of their experiences along with our Boys State representatives at a joint meeting. We have joint meetings with the Legion Post from November (our Veterans Day potluck) through March (the Legion’s birthday) potluck and find this helps the attendance at both organization’ meetings. Our Post and Unit sponsor a quarterly newsletter that goes out to 350 Legion and Auxiliary members along with copies to Department and District officers and the local library. The Auxiliary president organizes and distributes a ‘Plan of Action” booklet each year with the names of officers, committee chairman, work groups, past presidents and a listing of all Junior and Senior members. Meetings and special events are listed for the year and each member then knows what, where, why and how they can become more involved in their organization. The success of any organization is through good leadership, and a willingness of those leaders to do a bit extra to help with each project. It seems everyone is willing to help, but are reluctant to be the chairman. A good approach seems to be, will you help ME with this program or can we chair this fund-raiser together? You must help (mentor) them to get their feet wet, before they can learn to swim. Service Not Self is the key to our success as Ehrig-McTurk Unit #127 of Gladbrook Iowa proves that the Power of One Unit in One small community can make a big difference!
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