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For all the years the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 24 has used its trick-or-treat project to help homeless and at-risk veterans, the response from passers-by has never disappointed.
That was the case again outside Sam’s Club in Champaign on Friday and Saturday, where Nancy and Bill Phalen were volunteering on a pair of four-hour shifts. “The best part is meeting great people and hearing their stories about family members who are veterans,” Nancy said. “It’s also heartwarming when people thank us for what we do.”
Year 1 of Trick Or Treat — where Auxiliary members outside stores hand to shoppers a list of possible donations and then deliver the goods to veterans in need through the Salvation Army — saw more than $10,000 worth of products collected. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help a bit, but business slowly is picking back up.
“The community really has been wonderful,” said Nancy, 72. “They care what we do.”
Requested items range from jerky to protein drinks to Band-Aids to deodorant. The Auxiliary will continue to accept donations at the Post 24 American Legion headquarters at 705 Bloomington Road. “We’re constantly helping,” said Nancy, part of the Auxiliary since 1987.
Champaign’s LeeAnn Schaub, current Auxiliary president, has been involved “since I was a baby,” her father serving in World War II (Navy) and her brother in Vietnam (Marines).
With Veterans Day around the bend, “the biggest message is ‘Never forget,’ “ she said. “It’s all about them, and we have to remember that.”
Do you have a Veterans Day project or service to share? Email [email protected] so we can include it in our upcoming special section.