Legion effort to help veterans snowballs into mountain of gifts

Friday, December 5, 2014
Cashier Laura Lopez rings up the items as (from left) Legion representatives Kathy Sparks, Donna Ford, Joan Clifford, Julie Wood (partially obscured) and Teddy Beard unload purchases from their carts. (Photo by ERIC BERNSEE)

Just as every blizzard begins with a single snowflake, an avalanche of giving began recently with one simple idea for Greencastle American Legion Post 58.

And because of that response, the Christmas spirit has achieved quite a beachhead at the local Legion post.

"It started with the afghan that the inmate (at the Putnamville Correctional Facility) donated and you put in the paper," local Sons of the American Legion (SAL) Commander Tony Sparks told the Banner Graphic, "and it just kind of snowballed from there."

Looking over bags full of items purchased by Greencastle American Legion Post 58 for the Indiana Veterans Home at Lafayette, Sons of the American Legion Commander Tony Sparks examines the donations after going through the checkout line at Walmart (Photo by ERIC BERNSEE)

As evidence of that landslide of support, Sparks stood surrounded by fellow volunteers and seven Walmart carts heaped with gifts headed to the Indiana Veterans Home at Lafayette.

"There's this much or more back at the post," Sparks said as his wife, Kathy Sparks, paid cashier Laura Lopez while Joan Clifford, Donna Ford, Julie Wood, Teddy Beard and Jeff Bray all either loaded items like hats, slippers, socks, underwear, sweatshirts and toiletries onto the checkout counter or put bags full of clothes and other necessities into another cart.

Sparks explained how the afghan raffle "got the ball rolling" by yielding a modest $250 in a quick turnaround.

A couple of Legion Post 58 members who had earlier attended the fall state convention came home with a plea from the Veterans Home, the stately

edifice that overlooks the Wabash River at


The home is in great need for clothing and other personal items, including adult diapers, for the 244 men and women who reside there, Sparks said.

"We were already going to do the clothe-a-veteran project," he explained, "so we threw the idea out there to the general membership and the auxiliary and the SAL, and this is what we came up with."

The result? Heaping carts of necessities funded by the proceeds of the afghan raffle, 50/50 drawings donated back, personal and anonymous donations (including one of $1,500) and money collected during an appeal outside the Walmart store on a recent chilly Saturday.

"All said and done, it's about $6,000," Sparks said, getting nods of approval from both Legion Auxiliary President Beard and SAL Sergeant-at-Arms Bray.

That money went even further since Walmart gave the group the same 10 percent discount it affords local Shop with a Cop efforts and the Legion's tax-exempt status saved another 7 percent.

Although this is the first time the Greencastle post has conducted such a drive for the Veterans Home, Sparks said officials have told him Post 58 is reportedly giving more than the rest of the district combined.

"I'd have to check to be sure," Sparks added, "but they said we are probably giving more than anyone in the state."

And this isn't the end of the Christmas spirit for the local Legion post. On Saturday the Legion is hosting a visit from Santa for children and grandchildren of local veterans.

"So we're going straight from the older people to the kids," Sparks noted.

And as soon as that project is over, the post plans to turn its members' newfound energies loose on a food drive to aid the Putnam County Emergency Food Pantry and the Beyond Homeless shelter.

The public can assist in that effort by dropping off food items at the post at 1401 E. Indianapolis Rd. on Greencastle's East Side.

Let the avalanche of canned goods begin.

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