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Auxiliary makes backpacks for homeless vets
The American Legion Auxiliary in Princeton is once again helping homeless veterans get through the winter a little more comfortably.
The Jefferson Winn Unit No. 98 put together six military backpacks on Saturday, each containing a sleeping bag, flannel blanket, food and snack items, personal care items and socks, notebooks, pens, playing cards and a first aid kit.
The backpacks will be distributed to veterans living outside or in squalor conditions.
The Auxiliary stuffed backpacks at Princeton Elementary School, which has allowed them a meeting place since the county's condemnation of the American Legion Hall in 2006.
The backpacks will be sent to Butte County, which has a large homeless population, said Barbara LaDoucer, Unit president.
"We do everything we can to make life a little easier for them," LaDoucer said.
Glenn County Veterans Services still has two backpacks remaining for area veterans, which the Auxiliary provided in May.
LaDoucer said the Unit participates in the homeless veteran project twice a year, depending on the organization's ability to raise money.
She said the backpacks and sleeping bags were donated by a Redding company, but their contents, which cost about $40 each, was purchased from money raised by the Auxiliary in Willows during Poppy Days.
Although the American Legion Post and its Auxiliary have been in Colusa County for nearly a century, members say its 20-year fight with the Colusa County Board of Supervisors to properly maintain Princeton's dedicated veterans facility has not only strained relationships, but has severely limited their ability to raise money in Colusa.
Earlier this year, the Princeton Auxiliary teamed up with Thunderhill Raceway in Willows to raise money during Poppy Days, and found that Thunderhill Chief Financial Officer Terry Taylor-Vodden and Thunderhill racers who visit Willows are especially generous when it comes to good causes.
"Thunderhill has been very good to us," LaDoucer said.
The Auxiliary raised enough money this year at various events to assist homeless veterans and send three representatives from Willows, Colusa and Princeton to Girls State, a summer leadership and citizenship program held in Sacramento. The Auxiliary's cost was about $750 for each representative and was non-refundable on the Colusa representative who did not attend, said Lori Dowden, who is also president of American Legion Auxiliary District No. 4, which includes Glenn, Colusa, Butte, Tehama, Sutter and Yuba counties.
Natalie Massa of Willows and Ashley McMartin of Princeton attended Girl State in June.
Connecting the visual image of the red poppy — which bloomed on the battlefields in France during World War I — with the sacrifice of service made by military veterans has been an important goal of the American Legion Auxiliary poppy program since its inception in 1921, LaDoucer said.
This year, state auxiliary leaders have extended "Poppy Days" to the entire month of May.
"This should help us with our fundraising effort," LaDoucer said.
On Saturday, LaDoucer, Dowden and Auxiliary member Stella Willis were joined by Vannessa Stewart, Elena Pimienta, 12, of Maxwell and Fiorella Perez, 11, of Princeton to help with the homeless veterans project.
Pimienta was very young when her father served in the war in Iraq, and said she couldn't imagine him being homeless and needing the kind of assistance the Auxiliary provides.
"It would make me sad," she said.
Saturday's gathering was the Auxiliary's last official meeting of the year and included a pot luck luncheon.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.