A tribute to Seward's American Legion, Post 5

The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919, as a patriotic veterans’ organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.

Hundreds of local American Legion programs and activities strengthen the nation one community at a time. American Legion Baseball is one of the nation’s most successful amateur athletic programs, educating young people about the importance of sportsmanship, citizenship and fitness. The Operation Comfort Warriors program supports recovering wounded warriors and their families, providing them with “comfort items” and the kind of support that makes a hospital feel a little bit more like home. The Legion also raises millions of dollars in donations at the local, state and national levels to help veterans and their families during times of need and to provide college scholarship opportunities.

The American Legion is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization with great political influence perpetuated by its grassroots involvement in the legislation process from local districts to Capitol Hill. Legionnaires’ sense of obligation to community, state and nation drives an honest advocacy for veterans in Washington. The Legion stands behind the issues most important to the nation’s veteran’s community, backed by resolutions passed by volunteer leadership.

The American Legion’s success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives.

In Seward, the American Legion, Sons of American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, Post 5 have donated more than $70,000 to the Seward Senior Center over the past 10 years, to support the “Take a Veteran to Lunch” program. This program sponsors the senior center’s federally recognized nutrition program, serving the aging community 60 and older a fine dining experience at the center and the home extension of meals on wheels, to those who are unable to attend the senior center.

The federal nutrition program requests free will donations from all diners, but due to protecting an individual’s dignity, some choose not to attend because of lack of funds. This is a quandary for many senior centers, where our utmost concern is serving the frail, elderly and those on a low, fixed income. No senior is ever turned away due to lack of funds, but counseled on our low-income programs that include: free lunch cards; senior benefits applications; Medicaid referrals to a public fee agent; heating assistance applications; Benefits Check Up/Alaska (Medicare/Medicaid eligibility). The center also supports a plethora of community programs through our active participation with mental health services; homelessness connection; volunteer programs that encourages terrific socialization; and daily encouragement to beat the winter blues.

This is where our valuable community partnership with American Legion, Post 5 brings home our message to the community we serve, by supporting the “Take a Veteran to Lunch” program. Veterans will leave the center with more than a full stomach, and find community where everyone knows your name. Together, we are dedicated to mutual helpfulness and grateful for this empowering partnership.

Dana Paperman is the Seward Senior Center Executive Director.

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