Assistant Managing Editor
The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary based in Indian Orchard will host a tag sale/bake sale on Aug. 21 to benefit activities at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home and Leeds Veterans Hospital.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the tag/bake sale will fund the Auxiliary's annual Christmas Shop at the Home. There, residents who are not able to make it out of the facility to shop for family and friends, and those who do not have the money to do so, can choose from a number of presents purchased by the Auxiliary so that they can give something to their loved ones at Christmas.
"They pick out what they'd like to give and then we wrap all the gifts," explained Post 277 Auxiliary President Doreen Rae.
This is just one of the many programs offered by the American Legion Auxiliary throughout the year, she added.
Rae explained to Reminder Publications last week that, despite the high level of health care given to veterans who live at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, there are few homelike comforts given as part of life at the facility.
"The care provided is quality care," Rae explained. "There is compassion, camraderie and a sharing of military highs and lows."
But, she said, these are people who "fought with their lives for our freedom... people who trapsed across Europe, or were at the invasion of Grenada ... and now they're stuck in a place without any freedom. Most people [signed up to serve their country] because our country promised we will take care of you."
She said the skill level of care givers is "exceptional and always has been," but there is less community involvement. Thirty years ago, for example, there were active groups of people who would visit the Soldiers' Home. Now, while the veterans there age, so do their families. It may be difficult for some to visit their loved ones at the Soldiers' Home because they may have to travel a long distance.
"[Today] it's a better place but it's a lonelier place," she said.
For example, clothing and personal health products (such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant and more) are not provided to residents by the Soldiers' Home.
If the veterans there do not have family close by to bring these items to them, or if they do not have the money to purchase them on their own, they go without very basic items that Rae said make a difference in their quality of life.
Something as simple as a warm cardigan sweater, conditioner for their hair, some games to play with their friends or visitors, or books, are not easily attainable.
Rae said another need is caps and gloves, and warm "smoking vests" for veterans who go outside to smoke in the winter.
"These are guys who stood in the line of artillery fire and came home without limbs," she said. "They smoke and they don't plan on stopping."
The Auxiliary and American Legions across the region will accept donations at any time of year and bring them to the Soldiers Home to help improve the quality of life there for our veterans.
"Every single American Legion post will accept donations for the Soldiers Home," Rae explained. "The service officer there would bring them [to the Home] on a monthly basis."
Anyone who would like to take time to visit at the Soldiers' Home may also do so.
"Anyone can call the Holyoke Soldiers' Home and see how their skills could best be utilized," Rae said.
And she said that, while there are many World War II veterans living in the Soldiers' Home, both men and women, there are younger veterans coming home needing care at such facilities.
The Post 277 tag/bake sale will take place Aug. 21, rain or shine, at 379 Oak St. in Springfield. In addition to items for sale, there will be refreshments and raffles. Donations for the tag sale will also be accepted call 543-7918 for more information.
Or ... bring your donations to our offices in East Longmeadow and Chicopee
Here is a list of items needed by the veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. They may be donated at any point during the year.
From Aug. 1 to Aug. 22, Reminder Publications will collect donations of the listed items at its offices in East Longmeadow (280 North Main St.) and Chicopee (432 Front St.). Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Aug. 23 we will bring all readers' donations to American Legion Post 277.
If bringing donations to Reminder Publications is not convenient, readers can call their closest American Legion post and arrange for drop-off or pick-up.
tooth brushes, toothpaste
hair brushes (soft)
white tee-shirts (any size)
sweat pants (med, lg. extra lg.)
Gold Bond powder
non-alcohol after shave
non-alcohol mouth wash
shampoo and conditioner
personal tape players
large-faced decks of cards
button down sweaters
caps, gloves, scarves
.... or any other quality of life item.