Girls Giving Back

Girls Giving Back: American Legion Junior Auxiliary

Supporting vets and their families
When people think of the American Legion, they might conjure images of people marching in parades or consider their numerous legislative achievements on behalf of veterans. This 100-year-old group is the largest wartime veterans organization, and their efforts have included youth mentoring, promotion of beneficial programs, and a commitment to civic mindedness. In addition to the vets themselves, there are also two supporting organizations, the Auxiliary and the Junior Auxiliary. For Post 304 in Manhasset, the juniors represent a group of community focused young women who enjoy giving back.
For Tess Harvey, a sophomore at Manhasset High School, the auxiliary runs in her family. Her cousin was also a member and encouraged Tess to participate from a young age. She also remembers her great uncle, who was shot during a conflict and lost his arm. “My grandpa’s brother, my great uncle, he was in the war when he was 18, and he actually had to have his arm cut off because he got shot. So I always knew that he was in the war because I would see him when I was younger and wonder what happened to his arm,” said Harvey.
Seeing this sacrifice prompted a deep appreciation for veterans and what they went through during their service. “I think it’s really important because the veterans fought in the wars, they fought for our freedom. They risked their lives, put their lives on the line for us,” said Harvey.
Every year, the Junior Auxiliary chooses a project to devote their fundraising efforts and service towards. This year’s project, Paws of War, was proposed by another member, Christina Caputi. This organization is addressing multiple needs, including rescuing and training service dogs, adopting out and training companion animals and rescuing overseas animals in war zones. The members have already held several fundraisers and will continue to accept donations through bins at local pet businesses and a QR code.
Some of the juniors toured Paws of War’s facility in Smithtown recently, including Harvey. She was impressed with how many things the organization is doing. “It was really cool to see what they did. They have an area for the adoptable dogs and also a separate training area for the dogs. They offer service animal training, companionship animals (for adoption) and behavioral training,” said Harvey.
Another major project for the Juniors is offering remembrance poppies in exchange for a donation. The red poppy is a nationally recognized symbol of sacrifice worn by Americans since World War I to honor those who served and died for our country in all wars. It reminds Americans of the sacrifices made by veterans. Led by the American Legion Auxiliary, each year members of The American Legion Family distribute poppies with a request that the person receiving the flower make a donation to support the future of veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families with medical and financial needs. This year the Juniors’ poppies will be available on May 18 and 19 outside of Raindew Manhasset at 465 Plandome Rd and St. Mary’s Church on Northern Boulevard in Manhasset.
The Juniors also participate in Secret Soldier Santa, where they collect donations for soldiers and their families. “In November we have our Secret Soldier Santa, which helps us to raise money for veterans if they can’t afford to buy Christmas gifts and stuff for their children around the holiday season. Obviously, that can be a tough time for some veterans,” said Harvey.
Being part of the junior auxiliary shows a strong commitment to community and builds skills the members will need later in life. “The American Legion, it’s a leadership position. I’m secretary for our program. I take notes during our meetings, and then I send those out. There’s also a president, a treasurer, all of those leadership positions, so that’s really good. Also it’s just such a great cause, raising money for charity and doing community service hours,” said Harvey.
Supporting veterans and cultivating a service mindset is intrinsic to the mission of the American Legion, a lesson Harvey seems to have taken to heart. She has no plans to give up the auxiliary as she grows up. “I get really inspired because I grew up knowing that veterans, soldiers, they fought for you, they fought for our country. When we’re talking about war in schools, you never really learn what happens to these veterans after they come back from war. Many of them are homeless or are really poor and can’t afford basic needs. So we help to raise money for them, which is obviously super important because they helped us; we should help them now. I think I want to do this in the future, when I’m back from college. I’ll join the auxiliary once I’m 18, because I think it’s a really good cause.”
Junior Auxiliary membership is open to girls from infancy through age 17. The Junior activities program prepares girls to become active adult members of the organization by providing positive volunteer experiences that instill the ideals of the auxiliary.

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