“Send the word, send the word….”1 The Department of North Dakota inducted Arla Roth as President June 29, 2014 in Minot, North Dakota. Tammy Ryberg, a Past Department President, officiated at the installation of the newly elected officers. Arla’s Department President Pin was placed by Marlys Aubol who then relinquished the gavel becoming a Past Department President.
“From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam, …”2 President Arla’s pin featured the outline of the United States in red with her theme “For God, Country and Veterans.” Arla’s symbols related to the American Legion Auxiliary’s mission of supporting the American Legion in meeting the needs of service members, veterans and their families and increasing patriotism through honoring those who put their lives on the line for our country. With that in mind, President Arla’s projects included North Dakota Flickertail Girls State, homeless veterans who access the Ruth Meyer Hospitality House in Bismarck, and an electric saw stop for the workshop at the North Dakota Veterans Home at Lisbon.
At convention, two past department presidents vied for Northwestern Division Vice President for 2015-2016. Judy Twete overcame Linda Juntunen, but both are passionate about veteran causes and have and will serve the American Legion Auxiliary at the national level.
A strategic plan for Department of North Dakota was approved at Department Convention. The purpose of the five goals outlined in the plan is to strengthen the organization and align Department of North Dakota with the National American Legion Auxiliary. The goals include retaining and growing membership, creating goodwill and civility, developing leadership, strengthening Department and units, and building brand loyalty.
“The ladies they will all turn out….”3 North Dakota American Legion Auxiliary members moved seamlessly from one administrative year to another. Convention ended and on the Fourth of July Department President Arla Roth, Department Vice President Diane Kraemer, Department Secretary Catherine Olson, Department Treasurer LaVonne Matthews, District 2 President Janie Pflaum and District 2 Vice President Marlene Simundson participated in a parade in Park River for Paul Farup Unit 147. Larimore’s Ted Valerius Unit 97 was the Color Guard for the Larimore July 4th parade. At Gackle’s Fourth of July parade, Mayer-Morlock Unit 250’s junior members decorated a float while unit members held a barbeque fundraiser. Fourth of July parades were the yearly highlight in many small towns and Forbes’ Nicholson-Gerdon Unit 277 participated at Forbes, population about 50.
Minto Unit 201 in Minto held a summer cookout and a “shower” for items for the North Dakota’s Veterans Home. Adam Job Unit 245 in Medina videoed local service members, presented the video as part of the school reunion and sold copies.
On July 12, kicking off Turtle Mountain Days, Belcourt’s Lilley-Dionne Unit 262 float led the parade. North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp was scheduled to ride the float, but walked the entire parade route instead. After the parade the Memorial Wall at Ernest Jeanotte Veteran’s Memorial Park was dedicated with these additional dignitaries in attendance: North Dakota State Senator Richard Marcellais, North Dakota American Legion Adjutant David Johnson, and Turtle Mountain Tribal Chairman Richard McCloud. Unit 262’s Historian, Cindy Gourneau, participated in the ceremony. Of course, Unit 262 members prepared and served lunch.
“There is work to be done….”4 Department Executive Committee’s organizational meeting was held in July in Bismarck. Each participant was asked to donate items needed by the Ruth Meyer House for homeless veterans. Department Executive Committee decided to set the reporting year from April 1 to March 31 with December 10 and April 15 as deadlines for all department reports. District presidents reorganized and reviewed district notebooks while the chaplain, historian and chairmen collaborated on plans of action.
Membership Chairman Judy Twete presented her plan of action which incorporated information stressed at department convention - retention of members and revitalization of units. Since membership is everyone’s responsibility, Judy introduced and handed out containers for her project “Saved for Service” to encourage unit members to donate change at each meeting to reach out to those waiting to be asked to be members and offer them a paid membership for one year. Judy included district presidents on her membership team asking each to call district membership chairmen every month to encourage recruitment.
To accomplish the promotion of the Department of North Dakota American Legion Auxiliary goals for the 2014-2015 year, President Arla, the Department Officers, and Department Chairman developed plans of work that were sent in monthly mailings to units.
Americanism Chairman Sandra Petermann encouraged members to be knowledgeable about and have the community look to the American Legion Auxiliary for flag information and patriotic holidays in conjunction with the American Legion. With the Americanism Essay Contest theme of “What does freedom mean to my family?” Sandra encouraged increasing participation since the theme is personal to every child.
Community Service Chairman Robbin Witkowski reminded units that community service promotes the American Legion Auxiliary’s visibility and by being visible members demonstrate who ALA is, what ALA does and why ALA matters. Robbin stressed that volunteerism is very important since veterans and their families are touched wherever activities are offered.
Constitution, Bylaws and Legislative Chairman Ginny Brazil explained the two main spring phrases of the Legislative program. It is important to “be knowledgeable” about Legion legislative priorities in order to advocate for those who protected us and are protecting us. “Take action” by contacting non-active members asking if they would be willing to help veterans by writing letters, making phone calls or emailing their senators and congressional representatives and by regularly posting the Legion legislative priorities on social media.
Education Chairman Barbara Stedman suggested enhancing respect for the sacrifices of our military among schoolchildren and promoting American Legion Auxiliary scholarships at all levels by building a relationship with local schools. Additionally, units were encouraged to support 10 for Education and support veterans pursuing additional education.
Girls State Committee Chairman Dana Thoreson announced the 2015 dates of Flickertail Girls State with new flyers available at the website ndgirlsstate.org. The 2014-2015 program of operations recommendations were approved by Department Executive Board. Dana reminded units that junior members who attend school out of state may attend North Dakota Girls State.
Leadership Chairman Marjean Boe suggested units grow membership at all ages and mentor new members by explaining tradition and history, but be open to new ideas from these members. In accordance with the strategic plan, training on nurturing a culture of civility was suggested.
National Security Chairman Marlys Aubol stressed areas in which units not located close to a military base can support veterans, military and their families. By supporting local posts, units are supporting the National Security Program by designating a POW/MIA Empty Chair at all official meetings, donating blood, preparing emergency plans and kits, and supporting the Red Cross, the USO, Operation Comfort Warrior and the recipients of Blue and Gold Star Banners.
Past Presidents Parley Chairman Betty Malkowski requested each unit select one member to nominate for Woman of the Year. Betty asked past presidents at all levels of the organization be ambassadors and mentor at least one member to make each level of the organization stronger. Woman Veteran of the Year nominations were also requested. Past President Parley dues supported a nursing scholarships for 2014 which was awarded to Brenna Thoele of Bismarck.
Poppy Chairman Joan Buske urged units to continue support of the Poppy Program for awareness of the sacrifices of veterans. Joan challenged units to increase poppy revenue, to educate the community about the uses of the funds collected and to encourage the help of local organizations and schools with poppy distribution.
Public Relations Chairman Marjean Boe promoted the positive image of the American Legion Auxiliary using unit websites that adhere to brand standards and the use of social media. Units were asked to send news clippings, pictures and memorabilia for Department Arla’s scrapbook. Information was shared on the Ring Your Bell publicity contest and units were encouraged to participate.
Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation Chairman Shirley Montgomery reminded members that caring for veterans is at the core of the American Legion Auxiliary’s mission.
Members were asked to increase and diversify volunteer opportunities inside and outside the Veteran Administration facilities for members and the community.
Department Chaplain Beverly Wolff provided inspirational devotions in The Message.
Department Secretary Catherine Olson kept members up-to-date with a monthly letter, educated members about the new Department Strategic Plan and leadership strategies in The Message, and the face of ALA on the opening page of Department’s website.
Department Historian Lynn Tomlinson, in the hope of increasing participation, developed new unit guidelines for a Scrapbook History to be submitted at Department Convention. Activity lists were sent to units for mid-year and year-end reports which were then incorporated into the 2014-2015 Department of North Dakota History.
“Oh say can you see …”5 what American Legion Auxiliary members in North Dakota have done for veterans and others? In August, Fred C. Wagner Unit 235 of Rolla began collecting 10 for Education items for a “fill the bus” campaign to encourage community members to contribute school supplies. Although the unit was collecting for Rolla School, a letter was written to the Editor of The Turtle Mountain Star encouraging readers to contribute to all county schools. Unit 201 in Minto gave monetary donations to teachers of the local school to purchase startup supplies and held a “shower” for school supplies for students.
James Robert Unit 124 at McClusky held a luncheon to present certificates to 25 adults and 60 youths who participated in Friends of Our Troops where cards are sent to Armed Forces personnel thanking them for their service. Unit 124 published instructions in the paper and invited the community to participate. Over 1000 cards were sent this year. District IV President Elsie Goldberg was also honored for her years of community service.
Department was happy to see two mentions of North Dakota activities in the American Legion Auxiliary Magazine, Volume III – August 2014. The Lawrence E. Meidl Unit 270 in Butte had a picture published of its cookie drive to benefit the North Dakota Veterans Home, and National Leadership Chairman Carol May Gout mentioned the leadership training that was held in North Dakota in February. Keep tooting North Dakota’s horn!
“Father and I went down to ... [Charlotte, North Carolina] and there we saw … [delegates] as thick as hasty pudding.”6 Twelve attended the 94th American Legion Auxiliary Convention August 23-28 where Janet Jeffers was installed as 2014-2015 National President. President Jefford’s bell-shaped pin symbolized the sounds associated with her theme, “Celebrating Faith, Family and Freedom”. North Dakota Department’s Woman of the Year for 2013-2014, Olive Gibbs attended and was recognized by 2013-2014 President Nancy Brown-Park. Olive was a prolific quilter (250 this past year) from Lyle B. Rich Unit 112 of Willow City. Quilts went to each resident at Lisbon Veterans Home, World War II veterans in Willow City, local veterans with health issues, and many other North Dakota service programs. Another convention highlight was the award won by the North Dakota Legion Band which is financially supported by North Dakota units and received a considerable donation from attendees at Department Convention. Department Historian Lynn Tomlinson received the National Toomey Award for best overall history program. District 4 President Elsie Goldsmith submitted articles about National Convention for publication in the Tri-County News and the Napoleon Homestead. Keep ringing North Dakota’s bell!
“Oh beautiful for … [ALA ladies who served veterans and community from the plains] for of amber waves of grain.”7 To start September, Minto’s Unit 201 sent letters to teachers and coaches at the local school. New Rockford’s Raymond B. Thorn Unit 30 began collecting change at each meeting for Department President Arla Roth’s projects. Members from Truman-Webb-Phelps Unit 6 in Grand Forks made and sent Labor Day cards to veterans. The town of McClusky dedicated an L.E.D. roadside sign to James Roberts Post and Unit 124. Unit 124 President Lynn Helm accepted the honor for the American Legion Auxiliary members.
Sandy Smith from Fred C. Wagner Unit 235 in Rolla was pictured in the Department of North Dakota’s Legion News with her contribution to the Legion’s beverage tab collection. Sandy organized a contest between the grades at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in Rolla and collected from community members and businesses turning in half of the tabs collected in North Dakota.
“Over hill, over dale as we hit the dusty trail … [the ALA ladies] go rolling along.”8 The first week of Fall District Meetings began in Fargo on September 22 followed by Oakes, Wimbledon, Belcourt and Park River. President Arla traveled with Membership Chairperson Judy Tweet. President Arla shared her theme and projects as well as stressing the importance of recording volunteer hours, monies and reporting, reporting, reporting. Donations from poppy pins that President Arla crocheted will go to her projects, of course she sold out after three meetings but had more at Winter Conference. President Arla was excited to relate an opportunity presented by Dr. Grace Holmes who is compiling a book, North Dakota Nurses Over There, letters home from nurses who served during World War I. The proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Department of North Dakota.
At the district meetings Judy reviewed National President Janet Jeffers membership theme, “It Can Be Done,” and the American Legion Auxiliary’s 2014-2019 Centennial Strategic Plan Goal No. 1 of one million members serving veterans and their families in every neighborhood through the three r’s of membership – retaining current members, rejoining previous members and recruiting new members. Honor our Female Veterans program was explained as an additional way to recruit new members.
Melvin E. Bender Unit 265 in Streeter published District 4’s agenda and minutes in the Napoleon Homestead. Three cheers to Lilley-Dionne Unit 262 of Belcourt who hosted a third district meeting since being charted in 2013. Unit 262’s junior member Therese Azure performed the National Anthem having been certified at the International Peace Garden Music Camp through the North Dakota American Legion’s program for its proper performance. After a week’s break, District Meetings continued in Minot, Ray, New England, Almont and Washburn.
At the end of the whirlwind of district meetings, Recognition Night with a joint homecoming banquet, was held Saturday, October 11 at the Ramkota Inn in Bismarck for Department President Arla, North Dakota American Legion Commander Don Weible and North Dakota Forty and Eight Grand Chef de Gare B. J. Brazil. Tammy Ryberg emceed the program for the large crowd that included fourteen past department presidents. President Arla presented a poppy tuk (a crocheted or knit cap) to Commander Weible who gave her a toilet plunger candle holder. Along with the crazy gifts, the tables featured flowers in vases made with North Dakota license plates and bird houses with North Dakota license plate roofs.
“We’re always ready for the call….”9 With October in full swing Napoleon’s Barry Hoff Unit 72 sent care packages to three service members at bases in the United States and McVille’s Ole Semling Unit 135 held an Honoring our Female Veterans program recognizing newly joining ALA members who are female veterans through the American Legion Auxiliary’s Honoring our Female Veterans incentive and Department of North Dakota waiving dues also for the first year. Louis Ousley Unit 163 at Wilton had a raffle and bake sale to support various veteran projects. Matthew Brew Unit 3 in Dickinson made 79 prayer cards and delivered them to veterans in assisted living centers, nursing homes and residences for Make a Difference Day while Gackle’s Mayer-Morlock Unit 250 took part in Make a Difference Day by visiting local shut-ins.
Several adult and two junior members from Young Hawk-Bear Unit 253 at White Shield, on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation and home of the Arika Nation, attended the Commissioning Ceremony of the USS North Dakota (SSN 784) Naval Submarine in Groton, Connecticut held on October 25.
As October came to an end Walcott’s Hagen-Helgeson Unit 166 organized bingo at the Lisbon Veterans Home, provided a dollar bill for each bingo, and furnished treats. New Rockford Raymond B. Thorn Unit members assisted Post 30 with a Halloween haunted house. Bergman-Peterson Unit 215 of Rutland went trick or treating on Halloween for the homeless veterans at the Gladys Ray Shelter. They collected $500 and eleven leaf size bags of winter clothing.
Samantha Goerger, junior member from Brown-Nelson Unit 153 in Wyndmere, was announced as a $20,000 Samsung American Legion scholarship recipient. Congratulations to a small town (population about 420) North Dakota girl who has made Grandpa proud!
“Off we go … climbing high….”10 Many units were active during the month of November. Lyle B. Rich Unit 112 of Willow City emphasized the difficulty that many rural units face, with no school, no polling place and voting by mail, fulfilling American Legion Auxiliary missions. Members in this unit quilted giving a quilt to each Korean veteran in the area. Many other units such as Adam’s Qually-Dvorak Unit 237 and Fessenden’s Frank Priosl Unit 33 and Turtle Lake’s Lawrence Stephenson Unit 133 participated in quilting with a variety of recipients. Lawrence E. Meidl Unit 270 in Butte held a benefit to start a town library since they no longer have a school.
Minto’s Unit 201 is fortunate to have a local school to hold mock elections and provided rides to polling places on Election Day. Francis J. Harty Unit 65 of Wing collected for 10 for Education during National Education Week while Van Jones Unit 188 in Rhame gave students and staff ice cream bars.
Fordville’s Rotnem-Abel Unit 274 consisted of half a dozen active members ranging in age from 50 to 77. These “young at heart” members volunteered numerous hours monthly at the local nursing home. Junior members from Raymond B. Thorn Unit 30 were regular helpers assisting veterans at the local nursing home. Bowman’s Frank Gordhamer Unit 48, Hazen’s Clark-Grosz Unit 189, and Mountain’s Bjornson Sigfusson Unit 227 held Veteran’s Day programs for residents which usually included cake and ice cream. Drayton’s Unit 159 participated in the Friends of Our Troops program.
“Oh, we’ll rally ‘round the … [vets].”11 Reporting of Veteran’s Day activities was frequently prefaced by words similar to Hal Parker Unit 79 at Cando a small town and a small group still able to organize food of some kind and/or a program to honor service members. Melvin E. Bender Unit 265 of Streeter had an ice cream social, while others hosted a soup and sandwich supper, turkey dinner, stew supper, or meatball dinner.
McVille’s Ole Semling Unit 135 had Steven Bateman, U.S. Army Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, return to his alma mater for a Veterans Day presentation. After telling how much a care package meant to him, the students and staff of Dakota Prairie School made care packages and sent them to deployed service members for Christmas.
Bergman-Evenson Unit 215 in Rutland held its poppy poster contest on Veterans Day and asked veterans attending the program to judge the posters. Wahpeton’s Hafner-Miller-Ross Unit 20 had local fourth grade students make Veterans Day posters for decorations. Buffalo’s Easton-Yanish Unit 10 gave each veteran who attended the program a treat bag. Joseph E. Appert Unit 126 of Hazelton held a program at the local school which included student participation and speakers honoring local veterans. Belcourt’s Lilley-Dionne Unit 262 sponsored a toy bingo on Veterans Day assisted by Turtle Mountain Community High School National Honor Society members. Prior to Veteran’s Day, Clark-Grosz Unit 189 at Hazen posted a display featuring local deceased veterans in the window of a main street business.
American Legion Auxiliary members are “proud to be … [Americans who] won’t forget the men who … [served].”12 December found ALA members and units in the giving spirit. Department started the season with gift shops at the VA hospital in Fargo on December third and at the Lisbon Veterans Home on December fourth. ALA members from all over the state including Ole Semling Unit 135 of McVille took individual veterans with the veteran’s wish list down long isles of gifts to pick out a present for a family member and one for themselves. Selections were wrapped by “elves” and labeled for shipping. There was joy, tears, thankfulness, hugs and many heart-warming stories. What a wonderful scene and what a great feeling to help these special veterans get ready for the holiday season at no cost to them! Units from across the state contributed to this program such as Anton Ulijohn Unit 66 at New England.
Many units contributed to Angel Trees such as Anderson-Hefta Unit 93 from Portland. Sherwood’s Bothum-Peterson Unit 213 furnished the treats and helped with the local Santa day. Grafton Unit 41 financially supported and participated in a community Christmas Eve party so no one would be alone. Hagen-Helgeson Unit 166 at Walcott remembered housebound Auxiliary members with holiday cards and pails of treats.
Veterans and service members were not forgotten. Van Jones Unit 188 in Rhame packed Christmas boxes for local veterans who live alone and Lakota’s Rundell-Holicky Unit 21 gave poinsettias to local veterans. Easton-Yanish Unit 10 of Buffalo supported Wreaths across America as did Washburn’s Victor B. Wallin Unit 12 who also gave to the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery Foundation.
Gilbert C. Grafton Unit 2 in Fargo helped with 113 kids and parents for an Operation Military Kids Christmas party while Mooreton’s Robert Bergman Unit 283 gave to Toy for Tots. Dan R. Richardson Unit 54 in Linton got the community involved by placing boxes in businesses and churches for donations to mail to deployed service members.
On a night scheduled to be the Christmas event for Ole Semling Post and Unit 135, Ellen McKinnon, Salvation Army Outreach Specialist, shared her work with isolated North Dakota veterans who live primitively off the land. Finding out that a vet lived under such condition just twenty miles from town, Unit 135 donated money and necessities to the program.
“Glory! Glory! Hallelujah … the trumpet shall never call retreat….”13 Activity was slow in January as few want to leave the warmth of home. Still, junior members of Carl Bostrom Unit 160 at McHenry presented a special tribute to veterans at a local basketball game. Larimore’s Ted Valerius Unit 97 held a benefit to support families whose children were injured in a bus/train collision.
Since there is a need for blood all year, Mayer-Morlock Unit 250 in Gackle organized and advertised a blood drive in January and another one in June. Adam’s Qually-Dvorak Unit 237 held one in July and October. Hettinger’s Johnson-Melary Unit 115 and Rundell-Holicky Unit 21 of Lakota also sponsored blood drives during the year.
The Department of North Dakota “aim[ed] to make this country grander….”14 Winter Conference hosted by Wilton’s Louis Ousley Unit 163 convened January 30. The highlight was having National President Janet Jefford attend the whole conference. Janet arrived on Thursday and was given a tour of the State Capitol and Heritage Center. On Sunday, President Janet was the featured speaker with a question and answer session. To help Department of North Dakota focus on the American Legion Auxiliary’s mission, President Janet highlighted the Centennial Strategic Plan emphasizing how creating goodwill and civility can be used to grow and retain membership. Conference attendees had been asked by President Arla to bring items needed by homeless veterans who access the Ruth Meyer Hospitality House. Both Presidents delivered a van load of supplies!
A chairman’s roundtable was held on Saturday, and Department Executive Committee met on Friday afternoon before the Convention. DEC approved the disbandment of the following units this year: Abercrombie’s Fort Abercrombie Unit #128, Flaxton’s S. M. Foote Unit #161, Kensal’s John Florhaug Unit #103, Osnabrock’s Fismes Unit #164, Sarles’ Brummell-Gray Unit #164, St. John’s Carey-Dolan Unit #125 and Roseglen’s Gladwyn L. Robert Unit #296.
“Drink to the foam … we’ll never change our course….”15 As the temps plunged even lower in February some ALA members were still moving about. Paul Farup Unit 147 in Park River made spiced pretzels which were sent to deployed service members for Valentine’s Day and Easton-Yanish Unit 10 of Buffalo gave five “buddy baskets” to the homeless outreach program through the VA in Fargo. A flag etiquette program was presented to students at the local school by Melvin E. Bender Unit 265 of Streeter.
Past President Mary Ann Gefroh participated in a Four Chaplains Memorial at the North Dakota State Capitol. Units made donations to the Four Chaplains Chapel Foundation including Richardson’s Theodore R. Zech Unit 180.
“O when the … [ALA ladies] go marching in….”16 It is always nice to be remembered! The local school children sent Valentines to Rhame’s Van Jones Unit 188 members and many units remembered the American Legion’s birthday in March including Royal O’Gray Unit 61 in Brocket and Eagleson-Meling Unit 179 at Milton. Barry Hoff Unit 72 of Napoleon displayed the new Unit 72 scrapbook at the potluck Legion birthday party. Donnybrook’s Clarence McCormack Unit 195 put an unusual twist on the Legion’s birthday and built a red, white and blue birthday cake float decorated with stars and Uncle Sam for the North Dakota State Fair Parade in Minot. One side read “Happy 95th American Legion” and the other “Happy 94th American Legion Auxiliary”.
Bjornson-Sigfusson Unit 227 in Mountain presented Blue Star Banners to parents of two local service members. Langdon’s Unit 98 paid the postage for local Girl Scouts to mail cookies to deployed service members. Clarence McCormack Unit 195 from Donnybrook remembered President Arla’s projects with a discussion of veterans with grades kindergarten through six in the local school and donations of change from the students for a total of $314. Cando’s Hal Parker Unit 79 gave $200 to President Arla’s designated homeless project.
President Arla and NEC Marlys Aubol were off to the annual Washington D.C. Conference February 22-25. They were able to meet with Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven and Representative Cramer’s Executive Assistant to share concerns for North Dakota veterans such as suicide prevention, education, employment and professional certification of veteran’s spouses when moving between states. During the Parade of Checks, $1000 was presented to National President Jefford for her project, American Legion Auxiliary Foundation-Veterans Projects Fund.
“Busy as a bee … top man at … [her] craft, …”17 President Arla began the first round of Spring District Meetings began Monday, March 23 in Stanley continuing in Willow City, Langdon, New Rockford, and Northwood. After a week breather meetings continued on to Dickinson, Hazen, Bismarck, Valley City, and Lidgerwood. Raffle tickets were available for a queen size quilt with proceeds going to her projects. Proposed resolutions for the 2014-2015 Convention were discussed and a poppy hat contest to be held at convention was unveiled.
Spring District Meetings always include a memorial service for members who have passed away during the year. This year 265 member’s names were published in The Message including 1999-2000 Past Department President June Schmitz on October 24. Seventy-four Tiny Tot’s names were listed as new members.
“We are proud to claim the title of … [ALA ladies].”18 Units reported a variety of activities for April. Sherwood’s Bothum-Peterson Unit 213 supported an after prom party as did Rotnem-Abel Unit 274 at Fordville who also held Teacher Appreciation Day in April. Lawrence Stephenson Unit 133 of Turtle Lake supported “bike fest” teaching bike safety at the local elementary school. Francis J. Harty Unit 65 in Wing promoted the Americanism Essay Contest as did McHenry’s Carl Bostrom Unit 160 announcing the winners at a local school concert.
Mayer-Morlock Unit 250 in Gackle gave fruit baskets to community members aged eighty and over for Easter while Drayton’s Unit 159 sponsored bingo at the local senior citizen center. Fargo’s Gilbert C. Grafton Unit 2 made five hundred Easter baskets for eight day care facilities.
“The sun comes shining … and the dust clouds rolling….”19 Generally, poppy distribution and Memorial Day activities dominate the month of May, but many units were involved in other American Legion, veteran and community projects. George T. Taylor Unit 52 in Mohall and Barry Hoff Unit 72 from Napoleon remembered local teachers with apples on Teacher Appreciation Day. Ole Semling Unit 135 of McVille held a “meet the candidate” forum for city and county elections. Mayer-Morlock Unit 250 at Gackle held a Past Presidents Parley Tea. Bothum-Peterson Unit 213 at Sherwood presented a flag program at the local school which included a flag-burning ceremony.
Numerous units supported this country’s students providing scholarships for college, some specifically to veterans such as George T. Taylor Unit 52 of Mohall, and for the International Peace Garden Music Camp, a North Dakota American Legion program. Anderson-Hefta Unit 93 from Portland gave each member graduating from high school ten dollars per year of membership. What a way to encourage membership! Truman-Webb-Phelps Unit 6 in Grand Forks presented an Americanism plaque to each high school in its area to be given to a graduating senior.
Plans were made for poppy distribution and Memorial Day. William P. Makee Unit 75 from Crosby tied yellow ribbons on trees in remembrance. Rolla’s Fred C. Wagner Unit 235 held a poppy walk, free and open to the public in honor of veterans. Carl E. Rogen Unit 29 in Watford City selected a Poppy Girl. Harley Salzman Unit 5 of Beach displayed poppy posters in the public library windows while Napoleon’s Barry Hoff Unit 72 decorated a local business’s window with a poppy theme. Grand Fork’s Truman-Webb-Phelps Unit 6 had a poppy declaration signed by the mayor and Dan R. Richardson Unit 54 at Linton placed poppies on veterans’ graves at local cemeteries. Minto Unit 201 started Memorial Day with a breakfast for veterans and their families while many units such as Mervin J. Armstrong Unit 113 in Hannaford and Alvin T. Larson Unit 116 of Grenora host noon meals.
Memorial Day programs were presented in various forms which included Anderson-Hefta Unit 93 at Portland providing a memorial service for American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary members who died the previous year. Gackle’s Mayer-Morlock Unit 250 with the help of junior members included a Gold Star Banner presentation telling about the origin of the banner and reading each name from Post 250 whose mothers would have received a banner. McVille’s Ole Semling Unit 135 presented a Memorial Day program at the care center for residents.
“Now It catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam….”20 With the help of 4-H members, Lyle B. Rich Unit 112 in Willow City included a flag retirement ceremony in its Memorial Day program while the ceremony at Ted Valerius Unit 97 of Larimore was on Flag Day in June. White Shield’s Young Hawk-Bear Unit 253 participated in the Native American Veteran Summit held on Flag Day 2014 sponsored by Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Unit 253 had a booth to showcase American Legion Auxiliary programs for veterans and handed out small flags to participants. They also assisted in the Posting of the Colors, “hurrah for the flag of the free!”21
Another June activity that many American Legion Auxiliary units such as New Rockford’s Raymond B. Thorn Unit 30 and Minto’s Unit 201 helped support was Legion baseball teams. Truman-Webb-Phelps Unit 6 helped with registration at Flickertail Girls State held at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Hafner-Miller-Ross Unit 20 at Wahpeton hosted a picnic for North Dakota Boys State counselors. McVille’s Ole Semling Unit 135 invited its Girls State attendee and her mother to speak about the experience and held a Recognition Tea for the local member of the year. Lilley-Dionne Unit 262 cleaned Belcourt’s Veterans Memorial Park and planted flowers. Alvin T. Larson Unit 116 in Grenora also planted a patriotic flower garden.
“My country, ‘tis of Thee … ‘neath education’s say … soar upward still.”22 Many units give scholarships to students to attend The International Music Camp at The International Peace Garden during the summer. Carl E. Rogen Unit 29 of Watford City gave ten to local students for a total of $2,900.
As the year passed units and members found a niche and worked to fill the needs of many communities. Minto Unit 201 hosted a potluck every month attended by ten to twelve veterans. Truman-Webb-Phelps Unit 6 donated to Operation Warm Hearts at the Grand Forks Airforce Base and provided Blue Star Banners to commanders at the base. One member from Portland’s Anderson-Hefta Unit 93 volunteered twice per week at the senior center conducting an exercise program. Robert Bergman Unit 283 at Mooreton donated to the local food pantry as did Matthew Brew Unit 3 in Dickinson who also donated to the local domestic violence center.
Additional projects supported by units are as varied as the North Dakota weather. Gilbert C. Grafton Unit 2 in Fargo volunteered with No Vet Dies Alone. Washburn’s Victor B. Wallin Unit 12 sewed pillowcases for homeless shelters. Rundell-Holicky Unit 21 of Lakota clips coupons for deployed service members as did Carl E. Rogen Unit 29 from Watford City. Grafton Unit 41 financially supported a backpack lunch program that provides food on weekends for less fortunate students. Turtle Lake’s Lawrence Stephenson Unit 133 made 900 skull caps for service members. John V. Raaen Unit 187 in Fingal adopted a resident from Grafton Developmental Canter.
Supporting veterans included supporting local posts. Royal O’Gray Unit 61 of Brocket provided funds for new windows for the Legion Center. Langdon’s Unit 98 contributed to the Legion’s ceiling repair project. Bothum-Peterson Unit 213 at Sherwood helped with bingo twice each month and furnished the lunch.
Numerous units adopted a vet such as William E. Smith Unit 9 in Ray, Streeter’s Unit 265 who adopted four, Theodore R. Zech Unit 180 of Richardson, and McClusky’s James Robert’s Unit 124 who each had two. Grafton’s Unit 41 remembered 27 throughout the year and Grand Forks Unit 6’s adopted vet was from the Lisbon Veterans Home.
Elderly veterans are often participants in Meals on Wheels. William P. Makee Unit 75 of Crosby had members delivered meals monthly as did Sharon’s Thor Vatsvik Unit 169. Local food pantries received support from ALA units such as Frank Priosl Unit 33 in Fessenden, Johnson-Melary Unit 115 of Hettinger and Milton’s Eagleson-Meling Unit 179.
Local newspapers were an integral part of spreading the word about ALA activities. Rutland’s Bergman-Evenson Unit 215 credited The Teller and Donnybrook’s Clarence McCormack Unit 195 recognized The Kenmare News for coverage of activities. Grenora’s Alvin T. Larson Unit 116 recognized The Cross Roads, while Rolla’s Fred C. Wagner Unit 235 starred The Turtle Mountain Star. Young Hawk-Bear Unit 253 in White Shield reported coverage from two publications, The McLean County Independent and The White Shield Newsletter, as did Streeter’s Melvin E. Bender Unit 265, The Napoleon Homestead and The Tri-County News. Others mentioned were The McClusky Gazette by James Roberts Unit 124 and The Hazelton Newsletter by Joseph E. Appert Unit 126.
At the time of this writing Department of North Dakota had reached 81% membership. Sixty-two North Dakota units sent in history reports. Impact reports listed:
Service to Veterans N/R veterans assisted
55,215 volunteer hours
$104, 488 in donations
Service to Active Military 555 active military assisted
Sometimes life does not go the way we want. President Arla had health issues which hospitalized her prior to Convention and prevented her from attending. Ever faithful, Arla organized during her re-cooperation preparing for Vice-president Diane Kraemer to conduct the meetings.
The 2014-2015 administrative year came to a close on Sunday, June 28, 2015. Past Department President Judy Tweet read a communication from President Arla thanking those who encouraged her to run for office and for the support received leading the Department of North Dakota. President Arla thanked all in attendance for the support and effort on behalf of veterans, their families and communities and Auxiliary programs. Upon installation of new 2015-2016 Department Officers, the gavel was handed to new Department President Marlene Boyer.
Nicholson-Gerdon Unit 277 in Forbes, with four active members out of 25 who live mostly in other parts of the state or country, best summed up the year - the unit tried to do as much as possible, a small unit with a big heart. A year “is done … all is well … thanks and praise for our days….”23