Local auxiliary hopes to increase its visibility and membership

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Fri., May. 27, 2011
Barbara Pippin is president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 26, of Stafford Springs. Photos by Lauri Voter.
Barbara Pippin is president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 26, of Stafford Springs. Photos by Lauri Voter.

While Memorial Day places veterans organizations such as the American Legion in the spotlight, some people may not realize that these organizations are in turn usually supported by corresponding auxiliaries.

The American Legion Auxiliary is a national organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The hierarchy starts at the local, or unit level, and moves up the line to district, state and national levels.

At the local level, American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 26 of Stafford Springs works in conjunction with American Legion Post No. 26 to offer programs in support of local veterans and the community. Barbara Pippin will be president of Unit No. 26 until elections are held this month.

“We hold elections in June. It's time for me to give it up,” said Pippin, who has been a part of the auxiliary for more than four decades.

“If you want to put the time and effort into it, you can work your way up,” said Pippin.

The auxiliary participates in and coordinates an array of functions and events. The unit participates in annual Christmas shops. Through donations, this program enables veterans in veterans’ homes, who cannot shop, to provide gifts for their family members. They also conduct a cookie drive each Christmas to send home-baked items to soldiers.

Local units participate in a kids' walk to benefit the Children's Miracle Network, and conduct Bingo for veterans. Unit No. 26 accepts donations for and ships care packages to local soldiers overseas.

Each year, Unit 26 hosts the annual post-Memorial Day Parade function after the parade culminates at the American Legion.

“The unit supplies hot dogs and chips for all the marchers, every year after the parade,” said Pippin.

The auxiliary also plans fundraisers, one of which is the ongoing poppy campaign. Poppy Days are conducted near Memorial Day each year at the Stafford Food Center and Stafford Motor Speedway.

Pippin said there are challenges to running the poppy program, because many businesses will not allow the auxiliary to set up a table at their place of business in order to take the at-will donations that people can offer in exchange for the paper poppies.

“I think it's getting so people don't understand the poppies. It may be a thing where we need to get out and explain it a little bit more. The older people knew what the poppies were. They're made by disabled veterans. We purchase them from the veterans. I think the younger generation probably doesn't realize what those poppies are and what they represent,” said Pippin. She explained that the monies collected stay with Unit 26 to help support local veterans.

“We've helped them with their heating and electricity, if they have a problem,” said Pippin.

The auxiliary also struggles to maintain its membership. According to Pippin, the challenges lie in that many members have passed away.

“We have a lot of older members that we are losing. We're trying to get as many of the new members as we can,” said Pippin.

She feels that there needs to be more public relations to promote the auxiliary and the good that it does for the community and veterans. She said that one of her goals is “to get the unit working together with the community and with the veterans for their benefit. That's what we're here for – we're here to help them.”

To join the auxiliary, a potential member must meet specific parameters and apply through a qualifying soldier.

“There are a lot of young people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we can tap into that. We just need to get the word out there. We welcome new members,” said Pippin.

On June 11, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Unit 26 will host an informational session at American Legion Post No. 26 on Monson Road, where state officers will answer questions and provide information about the auxiliary. Pippin said that members of the community who are interested in learning more about the auxiliary and would like to join are more than welcome to attend the information session.

“I've been in the organization for 43 or 44 years. It is a really good organization and I would highly recommend anyone to join it. We do a lot of good,” said Pippin, who commended the current members of the auxiliary, saying that their work is truly appreciated.

For more information, call Post No. 26 at 860-684-7619 or visit http://www.legion.org/auxiliary.

Contact Lauri Voter with comments and story ideas at lvoter@remindernet.com.

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