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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Busy Legion auxiliary well deserving of high honor

It was a week back, and we were discussing the attributes of Al Zehe, owner of Willo True Value Hardware, who will be honored Jan. 28 as the Distinguished Citizen for the Willoughby area.

Today let us turn our attention to the ladies of Palmer-Roberts American Post 214 Auxiliary, who will receive accolades as the area’s Distinguished Civic Organization.

The honors are bestowed each year by the Willoughby Rotary Club in traditions that date back to 1956.

Distinguished business leaders plus businesses of note are honored in separate ceremonies held by the Willoughby Chamber of Commerce — this year on Jan. 25.

Both honors luncheons will be held at Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe.

Both luncheons are open to the public and are well-worth your attention. Our focus today, however, will be upon the American Legion auxiliary and the good deeds it performs throughout the year which have led to this year’s award.

While Al Zehe is a one-man dynamo, the ladies of the Legion post work as a highly efficient and dedicated machine to make life better for a number of people and groups throughout the area.

The lady who has been president of the unit for as long as I can remember is Martha Setlock, for whom the word “dedicated” was not only coined, but included in Webster’s so that others can look up its meaning.

I, for one, am awed by all the things the ladies do. The unit has more than 200 members, and as is the case with most such organizations, about two dozen are very active and go above and beyond the call of duty in the unit.

The Willoughby group is one of about 10,000 such units nationwide that have earned places of honor in their communities and have achieved reputations for selfless service.

The local unit, in fact, has been honored at a national convention with an award for the best overall community program.

Being No. 1 in the nation among Legion auxiliaries is no small achievement. Here are some of the things the ladies at the Willoughby post do:

They plan and carry out programs to benefit veterans, young people and the community at large.

They provide food baskets and Giant Eagle food cards for several families each year for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. They help deserving families with children in need of assistance, not only with food, but also with at least four wrapped gifts for each child, plus other special items.

They aided one small boy with several handicaps, including blindness and autism, providing him with special toys and gifts. Not only that, the ladies learned the boy needed school supplies. Funds were supplied to help, as was money for gas for trips to the Cleveland Clinic several times a week.

The ladies were able to obtain donations to help in the effort.

By way of acknowledging needs for education, the ladies each September “shower” local elementary schools with supplies and book bags. Over three years, about $1,500 in supplies and gift cards were provided for coats and shoes.

Books were donated to a school library, and teachers were recognized for their efforts. About 300 American flags were presented to children at a school assembly program on flag education. A young lady was also sent to Buckeye Girls State.

One of the Legion’s best known programs is the sale of poppies in May, especially at the Memorial Day parade. Contributions are used exclusively to assist veterans and their families. The poppies are worn proudly in memory of those who have died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy.

A book/bake sale raised funds to assist a cancer victim, and a potluck dinner was held at the post home to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association.

A rose bush at Point Park and Blue Star banners are among the unit’s other contributions.

That is just a sampling of the good deeds performed by the ladies of the auxiliary. You can join in paying tribute to them by attending the Jan. 28 luncheon, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Pine Ridge Country Club.

Tickets are $20 each, and reservations are necessary. You can reserve your place by calling Mike Tyler at the Merhar Nationwide Insurance Agency, 440-946-2040.

I hope to see you there.


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