Garner Cleveland Record

Town partners with American Legion to give back to vets

Volunteers at the Garner Senior Center wrap boxes for veterans for Christmas.
Volunteers at the Garner Senior Center wrap boxes for veterans for Christmas.

An assembly line of volunteers from the Senior Center filled boxes of everyday items for veterans Monday afternoon.

They then wrapped them up in Christmas wrapping paper as gifts, and will soon pass them out to veteran’s next month.

The initiative was a joint effort between the Town of Garner and the American Legion Post 232 Troop in Garner, to give back to veterans who may not get a present on Christmas.

The volunteers filled nearly 120 boxes and wrapped them in about an hour. The American Legion will pass them out to veterans at the Durham VA hospital, North Pointe and Lawndale Assisted Living homes.

Inside the boxes were cookies, crackers, a hair brush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion and other small items.

“It’s simple toiletry items that they would normally have to buy at the VA hospital that would normally come out of their budget,” Don Searles, a member of the American Legion Post 232, said. “So we put this together for a little Christmas surprise for them.”

This is the second year that the American Legion has done this. This is the first year the Town of Garner has participated in the effort. Having the town help them out enabled them to fill more boxes.

Torrey Blackmar, the senior center director, said she sought out the American Legion troop last year because she was looking for a way to distribute items to homeless or disabled veterans.

“It means a lot to the seniors to help out and give back to the veterans,” Blackmar said.

Blackmar said in the past the town held a dinner for veterans, but over the years, the number of veterans that came started to dwindle. So they ceased the dinner.

“We’ve always honored vets by going on trips and have always done a lot on veterans week here, so this was an opportunity to start collection and start preparing for the holidays,” she said.

Searles said when they delivered the boxes of items in the first year, one veteran told him that no one had ever done such a thing for them.

“I think if you ever go to the VA hospital and you see a guy who had just had his leg removed, and is sitting in a wheel chair, some of them don’t have people to visit them,” Searles said. “So to bring them something and give them a little gift, yeah it’s worth it.”

“It’s pretty emotional when you go over there. Those guys had a tough go, and to bring them a little big of happiness is worth every bit of it.”

He said their mission is to give back.

Searles, a veteran himself, looked at the volunteers wrapping the boxes and smiled.

“This is awesome,” he said.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland