Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 22, 2005

Howard Lake American Legion

By Jenni Sebora

The Howard Lake Legion buidling has long been an important part of the community of Howard Lake, and the recently remodeled building gives an excellent facility for the Legion to work out of.

With approximately 100 members, the Howard Lake Legion meets the second Thursday of each month at its newly remodeled and expanded home, the American Legion Club in Howard Lake.

The Howard Lake Legion conducts Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs and observances yearly.

“We do a Veterans Day program at school, in which all three posts, Howard Lake, Winsted, and Waverly, are involved. Each year, a post takes a turn leading the program, led by a veteran officer, focusing on youth awareness and education of veterans,” Dennis Frey, a 34-year-Legion member and present Howard Lake Legion Adjutant, said.

The American Legion sponsors Boys and Girls State, Boys and Girls County, the Howard Lake-Waverly Cub Scout Troop 494, and high school programs and scholarships, and leads the Good Neighbor Days parade.

“Each year we award a scholarship to a graduating senior based on need and citizenship,” Frey said.

In fact, local American Legion Posts gave more than $3.6 million in scholarships during the 1995-96 reporting year, according to the web site, www.mnlegion.org.

Being a service organization, the Howard Lake Legion also purchases turkeys at Thanksgiving and gives them away to families in need, provides military funerals for deceased veterans, and sponsors American Legion baseball.

“Since 1926, we have been sponsoring Legion baseball, as a part of building youth character, fitness, and discipline,” Frey said.

More than 89,000 players compete in American Legion baseball every year, for youth to develop their physical fitness and learn good sportsmanship, while honing their baseball skills.

In fact, today, more than 60 percent of all professional baseball players and 34 retired professionals, who are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, are former American Legion baseball players.

In the 1995-96 reporting year, Legion posts around the country spent more than $16 million to sponsor 4,800 baseball teams, and the Howard Lake Legion baseball team is one of those sponsored teams.

The Howard Lake American Legion also hosts a Sons of American Legion (SAL) chapter, which is for any male who is a descendant of an American Legion member, or of military who died serving in war.

“The World War II veterans are getting old so the SAL unit is helping out the Legion, and its work is sponsored by the Legion club,” Frey said.

To help out the community in the various ways it does, the Legion raises money through charitable gambling.

“Twenty years ago, we held steak fries on weekends to raise money; now we rely on the money raised from charitable gambling,” Frey said.

Howard Lake Legion Auxiliary

Organized and established in 1922, the American Legion Auxiliary also promotes patriotism and is a service organization for veterans.

The Howard Lake Legion Auxiliary meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Club as well, and is part of the 10th district, which also includes auxiliaries from such communities as Rockford, Maple Lake, Maple Plain, Delano, and Buffalo.

At the most recent 10th district awards ceremony, the Howard Lake Auxiliary took home several different awards, including the first to reach a membership goal and the first to attain a membership high,.Howard Lake presently has 67 active members, with one member who will be 101 years old in October.

“We are a definite service organization, providing services to veterans,” Auxiliary President Jean Schmidt said.

Annual events include Poppy Days and Memorial Day observances, including putting flags at the cemetery and hosting a luncheon for veterans at the post after the Memorial Day service. The auxiliary also hosts a Veterans Day party at the Howard Lake Good Samaritan Care Center, along with visiting and doing volunteer work for the Veterans Hospital in St. Cloud.

The auxiliary’s major accomplishment is doing favors for the VA Hospital at monthly meetings, including creating little party favors and cheerful notes to be distributed to the veterans each month, 12 months of the year, Schmidt said.

“We also help the veterans write out Christmas cards, and we stamp birthday cards so veterans can give them to family members. We distribute birthday bags to the veterans on their birthdays,” Schmidt said.

The auxiliary’s service does not stop there as its members also read to veterans at the care center, cook for veterans in their homes, and save commemorative stamps to redeem for money from the state. The money raised is donated for such things as picnic shelters and subscriptions for large print magazines, Schmidt noted.

Just as the American Legion hosts a junior SAL unit which assists them, the auxiliary also hosts a junior unit, composed of granddaughters and daughters of members, newborn to 18 years old.

“When the junior members become senior members, a right of passage ceremony is held,” Schmidt said.

“This year, the 10th district is playing host to the juniors’ lock-in or some other juniors activity,” Schmidt said.

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