By Mary Clyde
wordsmith 

American Legion Auxilary

Nonprofit Highlight

 

Sam K. White

Pictured is our local American Legion Auxiliary with the National Presidents Award for Excel lance which was awarded for their food bank on Tuesdays to help feed the veterans attending Airstreams. Pictured are Gwladys Peterson, Brenda Wright, Guest DeeAnn Graham, Paula Raboy, Harriet Clendenin, Beverly Hagan, Linda Carmichael, Pat Gracey, Charlene Sherman and Sandy Phillips.

Hip Hip Hooray! They're Coming Home!

A problem has arisen as a result of the drastic cuts the government has chosen to make by discharging great numbers of our military: coming home may not be as exciting as it used to be. Of course, coming home to family has got to be one of the greatest feeling in the world to both military personnel and their families. At some point a cold hard fact rears its ugly head for many: You don't have a job once you get home! OMGG (oh, my goodness gracious), what do you do?

The American Legion Auxiliary Tehachapi Unit 221 (supported by the American Legion Post 221) together with Airstreams Renewables Inc. (better known to many in Tehachapi as Airstreams Wind Turbine, hereafter Airstreams) are joining forces to offer our veterans a light at the end of the tunnel.

The American Legion Auxiliary (hereafter Auxiliary) has been in Tehachapi since 1932 and is no stranger to our military in need. Whether it be legislative support or a place where our service men and women know they can rely upon for information, referrals to services available to our veterans, or even a helping hand.

Airstreams was founded in 2003 by Dave Schulgen and Jeff Duff, longtime Tehachapi residents. It began as a wind energy consulting company but quickly ventured into technical training for those in the "wind" business. Since its beginning, Airstreams has grown into one of the most successful wind energy technician training schools in the nation and recently has earned the State of California Approved Post-Secondary Vocational Training accreditation.

What better "partnership" for our returning veterans than the Auxiliary and Airstreams? From all accounts, it's a perfect marriage for veterans wanting a new career and needing a helping hand during their six weeks of training.

"Veterans are helped via use of their GI bill for tuition and housing, but that still leaves them needing groceries while they are away from home," shared Harriet Clendenin, just one of the Auxiliary members setting up the veterans' food bank every Tuesday evening. "Students come from all over the country for this specialized training and 95% of them are veterans," she added. "They are looking for a career, not just a job, and Airstreams provides the needed training, not only in the wind turbine industry but also in the oil and telecom areas as well.

"Presently there are two classes going at a time and we are expecting a third class to be added in the not-too-distant future, so our need to keep our food bank full will be expanding as well," Harriet said. "We see both men and women in the training classes and most of them are in their twenties. Some are really desperate and need the help our Auxiliary can provide. The numbers vary each week, but usually we see about 20 students per class.

"Airstreams is providing a tremendous opportunity for veterans," Harriet shared. "One of the recent students is here from Tennessee and he mentioned that a new business opened up near his home town. They were looking to fill 300 job positions and 5,000 folks applied. The competition for even minimum wage jobs is frightening all over the country. With the military discharging so many, Airstreams is a welcome and much-needed opportunity.

"Another great thing the Auxiliary provides to our veterans are connections to various other resources they may need," interjected Pat Gracey, another of the wonderful smiling faces seen at the Tuesday food bank. "We are able to point them in the right direction for the types of needs they may have.

"The Tehachapi program has received recognition from the national American Legion," Harriet added. "It's a great honor to have gained their attention. We've discovered that not every community has an Auxiliary like ours here in Tehachapi," she said.

The Auxiliary has their fingers in many pies throughout the community. "We give two $500 scholarships to Monroe and Tehachapi High School; we have a very active children and youth program; We actively support local, state and federal legislation as it pertains to the American Legion and we hold Poppy week every year. Poppy weeks this year is from May 10 through the 17th and you'll see our ladies out in from of Albertsons and other locations as well.

"We don't ask for donations," smiled Pat. "But the donations come with lots of smiles from our generous community. The Auxiliary also helps host veterans holidays, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans' Day," she added.

"And, the City has asked the Auxiliary to take over the Wall of Valor display in the gazebo in the park where pictures of our local military who currently are service are displayed," Harriet added. "We are also active with our Blue and Gold families."

The Auxiliary also supports many City activities, Sheriff's Department functions and even the VIPs of Tehachapi's local Police Department. They are truly a "behind-the-scenes," community-minded organization and, at the height of the need for care packages going overseas to our military, they were able to send 70 – 80 packages at a time. "That need has diminished recently, but we were honored to be able to participate when we could," shared Harriet.

Nick Smirnoff

USMC Sergeant Adam Phillips was welcomed home from Afghanistan by American Legion Auxillary Unit 221 on October 11th. Another one of the fun things they get to do.

"And, when invited, we will go to the home of a veteran returning from duty and supply flags and yellow ribbons," Harriet said with a big smile. "The motto in which we believe is 'service, not self,' and what better way to serve not only our community but our returning veterans as well?"

On Memorial Day, May 26, after the parade, you will see the American Legion Auxiliary serving hot dogs and water in Central Park. Be sure to stop by and say hello – and, of course, enjoy a tasty hot dog while you're at it.

Donations are always welcome as the Auxiliary is anticipating needing $6,000 - $8,000 for their food bank to get them through the up-coming training classes

The Auxiliary organization is open to wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, etc., of any veteran who has served during a time of war.

Harriet explained, "We meet once a month on a Tuesday evening and if you'd like more information, please give me a call at 661-822-1014."

This page has been sponsored by Airstreams. See pg 26 for how to be a sponsor.

 
 

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