The Union Recorder

December 12, 2012

American Legion Auxiliary provides gift shop for veterans

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Since the mid-1970s the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Georgia has coordinated a Joy Shop throughout eight veteran's facilities. 

The Georgia War Veterans Home event took place Thursday and Friday. Auxiliary participants from Milledgeville Unit 6 and 523, Loganville Unit 233, Monroe Unit 531 and 64, Unit 583 Eatonton and Fort Valley Unit 76 helped collect and distribute donated gifts to all 233 veteran residents.

Each veteran could peruse the items, picking two gifts for family members. Auxiliary ladies setup a gift-wrapping station as well.

Men from American Legion Post 6, among others, helped transport the residents to and from the gift shop.

Facility representative and Auxiliary District 6 president Kathy Browder-Hawkins said Georgia has 149 units spread out to help all of the state VA hospitals.

Out of all the state units, 23 assisted with the Milledgeville Georgia War Veterans Home effort. Hawkins said some donate to several institutions because they aren't limited to one.

“I visit with the other units that come down and share in what they do with the guys. I support all of the units coming down,” Hawkins said. “It means everything for the veterans and their families. It makes them feel warm and fuzzy like they have some worth.”

The veterans have a welcome opportunity to give back to others this Christmas.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit 6 president and secretary treasurer of District 6 Carrol Griffin said the veterans are usually surprised they get to shop for free. There are more than enough gifts to go around.

“We do get some money per veteran from the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Georgia in addition to local giving. We have always had way more than what we've needed to give everybody,” Griffin said.

Former Georgia War Veterans Home Auxiliary representative Jo Earnhardt remembers finding gifts for 500 residents in the past. The money is still coming in with fewer residents shopping.

“The gifts have increased in value since I first started. We have been blessed,” Earnhardt said. 

Extra gifts allow some veterans a chance to grab an extra one for their Christmas. Those without family members are welcome to shop for friends.

The five female veterans in Milledgeville receive passionately prepared gift baskets from the Auxiliary groups.

The Georgia American Legion Auxiliary coordinated joy shops in six Georgia VA facilities, as well as a one facility in both Alabama and Florida.

“Any time the veteran has a need we try to service it from here. We get more of a thrill and a blessing than they do,” Earnhardt said. “This is a big project statewide for all of our VA facilities.”

The American Legion groups also help with the Veteran's Gift Wrap Dec. 15 at the Georgia War Veteran's Home. Numerous organizations bring small gifts to add to a large gift bag.

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