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American Legion recognizes veterans for the holidays

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:19 p.m.

The Byers-Tosh American Legion Post 267 will present gifts to local veterans who have served in the past and those who are currently serving in the U.S. military, Every year for the last decade, veterans in the community are sought out during the Christmas season to receive a gift from Post 267, the Sons of the American Legion and the America Legion Ladies Auxiliary.

“We try to do the best we can for the local veterans and their families,” said Roy Hutchinson, commander of the American Legion in Ligonier.

Donated money is collected, usually about $15 or $20 per member, and a gift is purchased for each local veteran, or a check is given to the facility where the vet resides, allowing them to choose a gift for themselves, said Hutchinson.

This year, approximately 30 local veterans living in Bethlen Home and Ligonier Gardens - both part of the Bethlen Communities in Ligonier - and Nedrow's Personal Care Home in Stahlstown, will be given a Christmas gift from the organization.

Usually the week before Christmas, several of the Legion's members will visit the retirement facilities and meet with the veterans in an activity area, or go room to room to visit with them and drop off gifts, Hutchinson said.

Previous year's gifts have been shaving kits for the men and perfume and lotion baskets for the women. This year the suggestion has been made to get the residents cardigan sweaters.

“It's very nice of the American Legion,” said Sherry Humbertson, of Derry, the activities director of Bethlen Communities, “They've always been supportive of our veterans, not just at Christmastime.”

For the past five years, the ladies auxiliary also put together boxes of comfort items to send to local active service members deployed overseas.

“Normally when boxes are sent abroad, it's a first-come, first-serve basis. We want to be sure the men and women who are from our area receive gifts, so every year we try to round up as many names as we can,” said the auxiliary's president Janet Carns of Laughlintown.

Carns urges anyone with a family member or friend currently serving overseas to contact the post to add their loved one's name to the list of local veterans.

Items such as cocoa, unopened razors, over-the-counter medicine, snacks, hand warmers and batteries are sent to those who are currently abroad, said Carns.

Legion members also celebrate with the families of veterans during the annual Christmas Party. This year's party is Dec. 18 at the Ligonier Legion.

“We have a tree up and Santa will be there to visit with the kids,” said Hutchinson. All American Legion members are asked, in lieu of gifts to each other, to bring a new T-shirt or package of socks to be donated to the Union Mission in Latrobe.

Any excess of gift items collected for the comfort boxes will also be given to the Union Mission, which is a temporary shelter that helps men over 18, a large portion of which are veterans, in Westmoreland County.

Anyone interested in making a monetary donation to help local veterans, or anyone who would like to add a veteran's name to the list of those to be honored, should contact the post located on Kelly Street in Ligonier, or call 724-238-5525.

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.