American Legion continues to support local veterans, youth and families during the holidays

 - American Legion Commander Bob Huntington, wearing the Christmas hat, holds up a gift basket while auctioneer Dennis Helms, left, gets bids during the Dec. 14 holiday auction.

Imagine this — 16 shoppers spending $5,000 in three hours.

But they aren't shopping for themselves.

Instead, they are buying Christmas gifts for folks in their community.

For more than 20 years, members of the local American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary have provided gifts and food to veterans, their families and less fortunate community members.

But this year, they spent more than previous years — $9,600 worth of gifts and food certificates.

"The American Legion Auxiliary was able to gift 140 names from the Tree of Joy," said Stanley Elliott, an American Legion member and public relations committee member.

This included 36 veterans, 18 children of veterans, and 86 children from the community.

Not only that, but Legion members provided 96 $50 Eriksons Thriftway food certificates to families in need.

"We are so grateful for the support that the American Legion has given to Holiday Partnership this year and in the past," said Holiday Partnership organizer Vickie Rhoden. "They have been so generous, giving to the veterans and their families as well as the non-veteran families of Crook County."

The patriotic veterans service organization strives to not only support veterans but those less fortunate in the community.

"One of the pillars that they're built on is to work with their communities and to work with youth," explained American Legion Auxiliary secretary/treasurer Helen Hisaw. She is also the Children and Youth chairman.

She said joining the Holiday Partnership is one way they help local youth and veterans. The Prineville Legion has around 250 members, and the auxiliary has 170 members.

In the days before the program, the Legion purchased food, put together food baskets, and bought gifts for people whose names were on Trees of Joy.

 - American Legion Auxiliary and Ladies of the Elks members and a few community volunteers spent four hours wrapping gifts recently and delivered them to the Holiday Partnership, where they were distributed locally.The Holiday Partnership formed in 2005 with the purpose of partnering together agencies and organizations in Crook County to eliminate duplication and adequately serve all eligible children, families, veterans, seniors and disabled citizens in Crook County during the holidays.

The American Legion is one such organization that joined the Holiday Partnership.

In order to fund their Christmas gift and food giving service, Legion members host an auction each December.

"This is our main fundraiser," Elliott said. "All the money raised goes to the next year's gift program and food certificates."

Legion members donate auction items, and many businesses donate gift certificates, products and services. Items vary from holiday gift baskets to dump truck loads of rock.

Veterans and Legion members attend the auction, and people in the community are always welcome to come and place bids.

Last year's auction brought in $9,600, so this Christmas season, Legion members spent that much on gifts and food certificates.

This year's auction, held Dec. 14, raised $8,625 for next year's Holiday Partnership.

Elliott says a "big thank you" to all the people who come out to the auction each year.

"We appreciate all the businesses that donate every year," he added.

This month, the 16 shoppers spent $5,100 at the Redmond Walmart store, and that was after Walmart had given them a 10 percent discount. They fulfilled 140 wish lists, including toys, clothing and coats for children and items such as blankets, suspenders and bathrobes for veterans.

The Ladies of the Elks had pitched in an extra $400 for the shopping trip, and some of those members joined American Legion Auxiliary members and other volunteers to wrap the gifts.

It took 26 gift wrappers four hours to wrap the presents, and six volunteers delivered them to the Holiday Partnership.

All told, Elliott reported, volunteers spent 158 hours shopping, wrapping and delivering gifts.

"We had almost 1,000 people to give gifts to this year, and the portion that American Legion took was a huge help for us," Rhoden said. "Their willingness to make Christmas better for Crook County families is wonderful, and we greatly appreciate all their help and love working with them and look forward to doing so in the future also!"

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