American Legion Post 29 readies holiday baskets

ELKINS — Thanksgiving and Christmas are the seasons for giving and American Legion Post 29 officers have been doing just that for more than 20 years with Post 29’s Christmas Dinner Baskets.

Each year, the Legion’s officers come together to raise money through fundraising and to collect community donations so they can produce about 100 Christmas food baskets for those in need.

“It’s for Randolph County residents only that meet certain income guidelines,” said Cindy Holliday, volunteer and facility manager for the American Legion.

“We want these families that otherwise couldn’t have a nice dinner to have one.”

This is the biggest project the American Legion undertakes during the year, officials said, adding that a lot of hard work and dedication goes into planning, organizing and collecting the items for the baskets.

Every Christmas dinner basket contains a protein (turkey or a chicken), fresh produce such as potatoes and onions, stuffing, canned food and rolls, and is enough for an entire family to enjoy as a hot Christmas dinner. Also included in the baskets are nonperishable items.

“They not only get a dinner in itself, they get plenty of extra canned goods to stock their pantries,” said Dennis Calain, organizer for the project and the financial officer for Post 29. “We try to stretch our dollars and donations as far as we can.”

“It’s something that the community gets behind and supports,” Calain added. “We have a couple of schools in town that will gather canned goods for us to include in the baskets, and we do rely heavily on grant money from Wal-Mart every year.”

Throughout the year, fundraisers by the American Legion are hosted, with proceeds from these events being used to purchase items for the baskets, such as the turkeys and fresh produce. Recently, Post 29 had an elimination dinner, proceeds from which were used to aid in the effort.

Boy Scout Troop 66, with the help of the officers of the American Legion and their families, come together and assemble the baskets of food.

Anyone wishing to take part in receiving one of the dinner baskets must fill out an application and go through an approval process. Certain criteria must be met, Legion officials noted. Not everyone who fills out an application will receive a basket.

“We will gladly take any non-perishable or monetary donations,” Holliday said. “Community support is welcomed and encouraged. The more donations we collect, the more baskets we are able to provide to those in need.”

“We do various fundraisers throughout the year,” Calain said. “Donations can be dropped off at the American Legion, beside City Hall in Elkins.”