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Legion Auxiliary holds true to ‘Service above Self’

From left, Mary Safratowich, Rita Hocking, Linda Eischens Swanson, Lynne Sargent, Pat Cadreau, Lynn Spilman and Rose Loeffler are some of the Auxiliary members. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

In the Park Rapids American Legion Club, a congenial group of woman sit around a table.  They could be quilters, crafters or any service club – and many probably are.  They are the American Legion 212 Auxiliary, the world’s largest nonprofit patriotic service organization reaching the century milestone.  They serve the needs of the Legion, of veterans, relatives of vets or deceased vets.  Their philosophy is “Service above Self” or “Service Not Self” and they are seeking 1 million new members nationally to carry on their work.  Iraqi and Afghanistan vets need someone to take care of them, the women worry.  

“We need to be aggressive in asking women to join,” said Lynn Spilman, a longtime office holder currently the club’s treasurer. “Carrying on is a big concern.”  

This unit provides the color guard for every Memorial Day gathering and march in that parade and in the fourth of July parade.  They donate time and funds endlessly and never seem to tire of their community service, or complain about it.  They give scholarships to students, sponsor blood drives, hold dinners to raise money for their programs, hold a warm clothing drive each winter, participate in family and childrens’ programs and give to local organizations like the Fire Department, the Hubbard County Food Shelf, host an Easter and Christmas dinner and give to the Living at Home program and volunteer for Meals on Wheels programs.  

They also give funds to senior centers in Park Rapids, Osage and Nevis and funds to Relay for Life.  Whew! You get worn out just listening to their good works and they’re not bragging or blowing their own horn. They just do it.  Their main concern is the welfare of veterans and their families. There will be a turkey dinner for vets this year on Veterans Day, just as there is every Veterans Day holiday.  It will be on Saturday at the Legion Club. They donate to a number of veterans’ charities and send plants to ailing vets who are hospitalized, cards and flowers to family members of the deceased vets.  They have fathers, husbands and brothers who have been in the service.

It’s a family network, they say.  And, most of all, they laugh.  “I thought all they did was cook,” said Secretary Pat Cadreau, who admitted to being less than skillful at the stove.  “I’m a worker bee,” she said to peals of laughter from her fellow members.  Spilman is the 6th District Auxiliary Legion President.  They hold rummage sales and fundraisers for such items as buying a bulletproof vest for Oakley, the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department K-9. They give funds to the Food Angels program, which sends meals home with kids for weekend preparation.  Most are retired, but they are there in times of need.  It doesn’t take much to bring on their tears. They talk about the needy children they help.  

“It’s just jaw dropping,” Pat said. She works at the school two hours a day.  “We’re here for the greater good,” they say in unison.  And Spilman said they have a code of honor to leave their own problems at the door when they report for events. Everybody has problems, they agree, and many are worse than theirs.  

Mary Safratowich plays Mrs. Santa at Christmas time, doling out gifts to the kids.  “We’re here for the greater good,” she said.  They promote patriotism, buy flags for display and make a $3.1 billion impact nationally, supporting veterans and their communities.  They will celebrate their 100th birthday in 2019. Members of their group have more than 150 years of service – and counting.  “We’re not just old ladies in the kitchen,” Cadreau said.  There are benefits to membership, including insurance and accidental death and insurance trusts.  But that’s not why they do what they do.  They engage in acts that promote good citizenship, service to God and country and support and advocate for vets, above all.  And, lest we forget, there are the poppy sales. This year 3,000 were ordered locally.

The unit received $1,500 in contributions. The Memorial Day poppy symbolizes the sacrifices vets have made.  For more information, call chapter president Mary Safratowich at 218-821-7984.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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