Revitalizing partnerships

State officials of the nation’s largest veterans organization – the American Legion – were in Webster City Tuesday night to meet with local Legion members to begin the process for revitalizing the post to better serve the community and area veterans.

State American Legion Commander James Demarest along with Ted Hall, department revitalization chairman and Kathy Nees, state programs director, met with Post No. 191 members during their annual meeting Tuesday night. The purpose was to plan for a visit by National Commander Dan Dellinger of Virginia. He will visit Webster City on Jan. 27 and 28 along with state and district Legion officials.

Demarest said in keeping with the nearly 100-year tradition, the local post plans to refocus on community service and assistance to veterans. The American Legion has many programs designed to help veterans in many different ways, Demarest said. The local post will determine the scope and nature of those programs, he added.

“A number of the posts are wanting more and more for the communities and to get more veterans involved,” said Nees.

“When our posts were first chartered, what we wanted them to do was get involved with their community,” he said. Many posts became the centerpieces of the community, he added.

“That’s not the case in a lot of instances today,” he said. “We want the Webster City post to get more involved in the community, for example with the schools.”

Demarest said the American Legion offers many programs for kids, such as the flag essay for fifth graders, Boys State and Boys Nation. They have also been actively involved in with the Boy Scout programs

“We want to get them more involved in the community like they were when they were first founded,” he said. “Maybe bring in some younger members that will go out and do these things in the community.”

Nees said one of the most important and visible programs offered is veterans funeral services.

“That’s what many people think of when they think of the American Legion. But there are so many other programs,” she said. The families of deployed American Legion members are eligible for emergency funds should they be unable to make a rent payment or are if in danger of having their utilities shut off, she explained. The legion is also there when a natural disaster strikes, like a tornado or flooding. National emergency funds are available to members. Nees said a disaster team is dispatched to such events.

“There’s $1,500 available per member affected by a natural disaster,” she said. “That’s immediate money, not meant to replace insurance, but just to get them through those first few bad days.”

“In Parkersburg, when the E-5 tornado struck, the American Legion Post was the center of the assistance for that community. They processed a number of applications for emergency funds as well as other things,” Demarest said.

A family support network is also available to the family of deployed members.

“There was an instance where a refrigerator was struck by lightening and the wife needed a new one,” Nees said. “Legion members stepped up and delivered a refrigerator to her within hours.”

“That’s what Legionnaires do,” she said.

“These are programs we pride ourselves on,” Demarest said. “We want to let the younger members know that the Legion has their back.”

“Anytime there is a deployment, the American Legion is there. Anytime they come back, the American Legion is there,” he said.

The Legion officials said it’s very special that the national commander will be visiting the community. Usually, the nation’s top Legion officer will visit the state conferences or conventions.

“He told us he couldn’t attend those events, so we decided to make the most of his three-day visit,” he said. “We thought revitalization would be perfect. And we picked Webster City.”

During Dellinger’s visit on Jan. 27 and 28, he will be meeting with local Legion members, working with the revitalization team, visiting with Webster City and Hamilton County officials. He is also expected to visit Webster City schools.

Hall added that the Legion officials will also be looking for “veteran-friendly” businesses and industries – those firms with a record of hiring vets or supporting the deployment of veterans.

“We’d like to recognize those businesses,” said Hall.

On Jan 28, an open house will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. at Post No. 191, 726 Second St. The community, American Legion members from all over Hamilton County and all veterans are invited to stop in to meet Dellinger and the state and district officials. Information on becoming a member of the American Legion will be available as well as information on the wide variety of programs and assistance members can access.

“All of the services and programs that the American Legion has and make available to the communities will be discussed,” said Hall.

“We look forward to meeting all of the Legion members and the community,” he added.