Originally Published: September 12, 2017 5:59 a.m.
The recently formed George D. Reiff American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Unit in Crown King, Arizona, is already thinking ahead. As part of becoming a brand new “baby unit” in the nearly 750,000 member strong national ALA organization, they were given a baby girl doll that they subsequently named “Orabelle.”
As good parents, they are already raising funds for Orabelle’s future. “The ALA has a premier civic program for high school girls called ‘ALA Girls State.’ They want to make sure she can participate when she becomes a junior in High School,” jokingly quipped Patty Eames, District 8 ALA President.
ALA Girls State is a week-long program, conducted by American Legion Auxiliary volunteers, emphasizing the workings of government and responsible citizenship. Taking place at the University of Arizona in Tucson, nearly 300 Arizona high school girls participate in the program each year. District 8 ALA units in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Humboldt, Cottonwood, Yarnell, Camp Verde, Cornville and Crown King have sponsored dozens of candidates into the ALA Girls State program.
Because it is a highly accredited learning experience, participants often receive college credits for attending. But Auxiliary units across the state are struggling to maintain their current level of support.
“Even though the program is conducted by volunteers, the costs-— such as accommodations, food and supplies — continue to rise,” said Arizona Department President Yolanda Bonilla. Rather than cut participation in the program, the Department of Arizona Auxiliary is hoping to build a reserve fund to cover the increasing costs. The Crown King unit is doing their part.
“We are extremely proud that the women of Crown King have come together to serve Arizona’s veterans, military, local families and their community through the American Legion Auxiliary,” said Arizona’s Department President Yolanda Bonilla. “Their effort to raise funds for the ALA Girls State program is a wonderful demonstration of their commitment to the Auxiliary’s mission.”
To raise funds for the ALA Girls State program, the dedicated Crown King members, with the assistance of the Legion Commander, held a baby shower for Orabelle.
After dressing up members in toilet paper diapers, the real work began. Wrapped gifts that were donated by the members were auctioned back to the group. In the end, they raised enough funds to more than cover the costs for a girl to attend the ALA Girls State prestigious program. In addition, the gifts purchased will be donated to a local family shelter.
“Over the next year, the Arizona American Legion Auxiliary will positively affect the lives of thousands of Arizona veterans, military, local families and their communities—and my goal is to make sure we can continue to do so in the years to come,” said Bonilla.
Accordingly, Bonilla has selected the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State program as the Department President’s Special Project during her year-long tenure as President.
“By reaching out to youth, we believe we can simultaneously build a stronger America and a stronger patriotic organization” she said.
During the ALA Girls State program, participants set up a government and use it to govern themselves. Through service projects, bill debates, campaigning and many hours of meal-time and late-night discussions, the girls come to recognize and respect that there are many different viewpoints, stemming from their many different backgrounds. They learn from, and are inspired by, each other and each person’s unique story while finding a common ground in their passions. “Participants not only learn the workings of government, but they begin understand the importance of listening and really understanding the viewpoint of others,” said Bonilla.
District 8 Auxiliary members support Prescott area veterans through annual Christmas shops held at the Prescott Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center. Veterans shop, at no cost, for themselves and their loved ones. Gifts are even wrapped by local volunteers! They partner with the Arizona VA to conduct a Veteran’s Creative Arts Festival at the Prescott VA—a National program designed to further rehabilitate both inpatients and outpatients through art. They organize blood drives. Arizona members donate clothing and personal care items to local veteran organizations. They attend and contribute truckloads of clothing and other goods to local Stand downs supporting veterans. This past year, the Arizona American Legion Family raised more than $50,000 for Soldier’s Best Friend an Arizona organization that pairs combat veterans with a specially trained companion dogs. These described efforts just skim the surface of the work being done across Arizona by the American Legion Family.
For more information about the American Legion Family efforts, how you can help, or if you are interested in donating to or joining the American Legion Auxiliary, contact the Department of Arizona ALA Public Relations at ALAdeptAZpr@gmail.com or visit them at www.ALADeptAZ.org
Information provided by American Legion Auxiliary Department of Arizona.