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Editor's note: Last week we examined the activities, contributions, and history of Culver's VFW Post 6919. This week, we take a look at the organizations under the broader banner of the Post: its Ladies and Men's Auxiliaries.
The Ladies Auxiliary
Post 6919's Ladies Auxiliary group has been in existence just a year less than the post itself, and its contributions have enhanced the Post and the community immeasurably.
Margaret Dehne has been President of the organization for the past three years (she celebrated 25 years with the Auxiliary last August), and she explains the group exists for wives, daughters, granddaughters, and mothers of veterans of overseas combat (her own husband, Richard, saw in action in Korea).
Once again, the challenge in beginning to convey the immense amount of work undertaken by the Auxiliary is in conveying it in a concise way, so broad and varied are the many undertakings it's engaged in, both in the past and today.
Past activities have ranged from the (now defunct) annual senior citizens' Christmas and bingo party, Girl Scout Troop support and sponsorship, and of course an ongoing participation in the activities of the Post such as Veterans and Memorial Day observances and the like.
The Auxiliary attends local government meetings to represent the organization and keep abreast of the community. The Auxiliary's many community contributions -- as is the case with the Post itself and Men's Auxiliary -- are far too extensive to list in any detail, but Dehne mentions a few highlights.
"I think once every couple of months we take turn serving lunch meals at REAL Meals (for older adults)," she says. "We contribute to the food pantry. Also when the firemen or EMS puirchasing equipment, we did special suppers -- and still do as a combination with the Post and Men's Auxiliary -- with the proceeds going to whichever department it was. We have helped with the Boys & Girls Club. The last couple of years we have contributed to the (Culver High School's) BPA when they go on big trips. We present a scholarship to a senior each year, with the teachers making a selection of the recipient. We contribute to Leiters Ford and Culver Libraries for summer reading, sponsor a soccer team, do the Patriots Pen (patriotic) essays for grades 6 through 8, and the Voice of Democracy contest for high school students, and that has monetary awards. We assist at Bloodmobile serving lunch to the workers. At Christmas we...prepare boxes with food, clothing, gifts, and gift cards. And in the spring, all three -- the Post and the Men's and Ladies' Auxiliaries -- do a big fish fry and the proceeds go to whoever the Men's Auxiliary sets up (this year's went to the food pantry).
The Auxiliary donates to area hospitals, serves veterans at an annual bingo party in Lafayette, and contributes to the VFW's National Home for Children.
"We do more than what people realize," she points out.
The Auxiliary presently has 167 members, whose participation, of course, also fills a social role.
"We can come down here for lunch," Dehne explains. "They have a good lunch. Friday and Saturday nights they have a good supper and play bingo."
The Auxiliary's many contributions were recognized in 2008 by Culver's Chamber of Commerce at its annual awards banquet, and the Auxiliary was the very first Organization of the Year named by the Lions Club in the early 1980s, she says, in what has since become an annual affair.
Longtime member and past State President of the Auxiliary (besides, of course, heading the local organization more than once) Mary Lou Wise says she keeps eye on veteran's-related happenings at the national level, and, "I write a lot of letters and email people to tell them about these things, to be sure they're told about it. I put things in the bi-monthly newsletter...I've been editor for 41 years!
"We've been really fortunate with our newsletter," she adds. "We've won awards at the state convention time after time. We've even been awarded nine times for best newsletter on a national level. We feel that's one way we can keep in touch with all our members."
So it would seem. Dehne notes that, when in rehabilitation last year after a car accident, she received cards and notes from all over the United States -- as did fellow longtime member Chuckie Strang -- a testament to the widespread network of communications among Auxiliary members nationally, of which the newsletter is an important part.
Blue Star flags are given to families with a member in the armed forces, she adds, to be placed in their windows. Strang herself is a "Blue Star grandma."
Another ongoing tradition is that of Buddy Poppy Day, which takes place over Memorial Day weekend, and which raises funds for military families with ailing veterans, and veterans' hospitals.
"I stay in it because of the things we do in upholding the veterans," says Strang, who acted as Treasurer for the Auxiliary for so long she has a plaque saying, "Perpetual Treasurer." "And our loyalty to them, to the country, and to the service."
The VFW Post 6919 Men's Auxiliary is the youngest of the Post's many organizations, both in terms of the age of its members, and its longevity as an official organization.
Member Terry Wakefield notes the national VFW once had a Father's Auxiliary for fathers of overseas serving veterans, but as members died off, a movement grew to create a broader Men's Auxiliary on a ntaional level. Members must have a father, mother, brother, or immediate family member in overseas service, he says.
The Culver Auxiliary, which formed March 13, 2003, has brought new vitality to the Post, Wakefield says.
"This Post would be closed if not for the members and the younger crowd we bring in. We pick up the slack. The Ladies Auxiliary has more members than the Post and Men's Auxiliary put together."
In 2010, the Men's Auxiliary donated $7,595 to local charities and causes, points out Dave McKee, current President of the Auxiliary, as he scans through a lengthy page filled with the many recipients of their giving (which includes, on a national level, the VFW's National Home for children). Regular recipients have included Culver Elementary School's READ program, the Culver food pantry, Marshall County Shop with a Cop, Monterey Elementary BUGS, Culver's fire department, the Culver High School After-prom, and many more.
One major fund raiser is the Friday dinners held at the Post, with the various entities housed there taking turns organizing and cooking. The Men's group handles every third Friday.
"There's a lot we do that people don't realize," he explains. From fish fries to hog roasts, soup cook-offs to Superbowl parties, there's constant efforts to raise funds for good causes.
McKee emphasizes the public is welcome to the dinners and other events, something he says many don't realize are open to all.
"And the Friday dinners have the best prices on food in town. Where else can you get a steak in Culver for 12 bucks? You can't touch our prices!"
Other activities for the Auxiliary's approximately 65 members include regular get-togethers, extensive cleaning sessions at the Post building ("These guys went and served their country overseas," says McKee of Post members; "we're here to make sure they've got a safe and fun place to relax and enjoy themselves, and serve the community"). There's also an Auxiliary-sponsored membership picnic for all the Post's groups to thank them for their membership and contributions, and more.
The Men's Auxiliary always welcomes new members, say McKee and Wakefield. Those interested are encouraged to stop by the Post and ask for an application, after which they'll be checked for eligability.
"As a thank you for the men, we try to pick up lot of things they can't do, and help them out," adds McKee. "We just want to give back to our veterans who gave so much to us."
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