Making our communities better places in which to live is something Auxiliary members strive for each and every day across this country. Whether it is hosting a stand down to bring vital health and support services to homeless veterans or coordinating a send-off or welcome-home event for a deployed military unit, Auxiliary members are continuously at work in their communities, demonstrating the compassion and heart we have for those who serve our country and give so much. Community Service projects focus on enhancing the quality of life for veterans and their families.
A major outreach program of the Auxiliary since 1926, Community Service also demonstrates our longstanding commitment to supporting the work of American Legion posts and other organizations in providing assistance with blood drives, first aid and CPR training, child safety programs, support for women in shelters, and disaster and emergency preparedness programs. All community projects point toward improving life for our veterans and their families, and the most important Auxiliary Community Service projects involve making donations to and supporting shelters for homeless veterans.
In recent years, the Auxiliary has partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service to make the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday – the third Monday in January – “a day on, not a day off” for service. Units and departments are encouraged to plan special projects that focus on veterans, military families, or children as part of this national day of service.
Stand downs were started in 1988 by two Vietnam veterans. Named for a military term for a combat unit’s time to rest and recover while at war, today it is a grassroots effort to offer the same services to homeless veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are about 131,000 homeless veterans on the street on any given night.
Stand downs typically include food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, benefits counseling, and job counseling and referral services. The philosophy of a stand down is to give homeless veterans a hand up, not a handout. Stand downs are organized by self-appointed community coalitions that take on the task of holding the event. Any group can decide to hold a stand down.
The traditional stand down lasts three days, providing shelter and food throughout the event, and may provide services such as haircuts, healthcare screenings, vision and dental care, VA benefits counseling, substance abuse counseling, and legal services.
Welcome-home/send-off events are a way for Auxiliary units to say thank-you to servicemembers for their service to our nation. These are both celebrations as well as outreach events, often offering resources for OEF/OIF/OND combat servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
These events may include free health screenings, benefits counseling, employment assistance, education support, and an introduction to community service providers.
American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters