Byers-Tosh auxiliary shows support for area veterans
Members of the Byers-Tosh Post 267 American Legion Auxiliary got an early start honoring local military service members Saturday when they visited veterans at the Bethlen Home and the Ligonier Gardens Personal Care and Retirement Center.
Both are part of Bethlen Communities, a nonprofit, faith-based retirement community.
“We like to visit those veterans who are not able to attend the Veterans Day service on the Diamond,” said Sue Crouse, president of the auxiliary. “We walk around to the veterans' rooms, give them a small gift with a American flag attached and a poppy. We want to make them feel special.”
Sherry Humbertson of Derry is the activity director at Bethlen Homes. She said the veterans are very appreciative of the gifts and programs provided.
“They always salute the flag and it is very touching to see them try to stand up to pay respect to their country during one of these programs. It is something that is instilled in them and it is still part of their life,” said Humbertson.
Crouse of Laurel Mountain Borough, who was elected as president of the auxiliary in August, is hoping to grow the group's involvement in community activities. Like the local Legion, the auxiliary lists more than 200 members in the group but less than a dozen contribute to the many project possibilities open to the membership.
In addition to college scholarships and essay contests for students, the group is involved in numerous community outreach opportunities.
Crouse said the group supports active military families by collecting coupons and sending them to bases overseas. They also send personal care packages to deployed service men and women.
“Last year we focused on Valentine's Day and a second package in May. This year we plan to put together packages for Christmas,” said Crouse.
The organization is gathering the names and addresses of those deployed and are accepting cash donations to purchase the items most frequently requested.
The auxiliary partners with Y-Care children at the Ligonier Valley YMCA to create appreciation cards to go in the packages.
“The troops love the cards,” said Crouse. “We put several cards together on a string so they can hang them up in the barracks.”
Volunteers provide items for area homeless shelters by donating socks, T-shirts, blankets and donated clothing to the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. Crouse said 20 percent of the area's homeless are former members of the military.
This year, the auxiliary plans to focus on the veterans affairs and rehabilitation committee. Joanne Filson of Waterford will chair this committee for the Ligonier auxiliary.
“We will be available to help them sort out VA benefits and inform them about the various veterans programs available to them,” said Filson. “We will talk to the vets about day-to-day life and help them get their life on track.”
Since this is the first year, Filson said she needs volunteers to help on the committee.
“We want to get to know the local veterans, even if they do not belong to veterans' associations,” said Crouse. “There is a great deal of isolation amongst veterans. We will visit them and provide hospitality to let them know we are here to help.”
They hope to involve local youth and Scout groups by offering leaf and snow removal services for veterans who are not able to do yard work, Crouse said.
The auxiliary meets on the third Tuesday of each month. The next meeting is 7 p.m. Nov. 19.
“We are excited to provide to the community these new outreach programs to veterans and their families,” said Crouse. “If people can just serve one day a month, it will help grow our organization. It can be as simple as cutting out coupons from the Sunday paper. Just give us one day.”
For more information about the auxiliary or to submit a deployed service man or woman's name, call 724 238-6844 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or email@example.com.