Ladies Auxiliary of Stanhope American Legion Raises Funds to Sponsor a Service Dog for VetNov 12, 2022 02:20PM ● By Steve Sears
The brochure says it all: They Served Us – Now It’s Our Turn: Dogs and Services for Veterans. Below the words, a proud veteran of the United States Navy stands tall, side by side, with his equally loyal service dog.
The Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion Post #278 of Stanhope recently reached their goal amount of $5,000 for the sponsorship of a service dog for a veteran. And they attained that goal in a wonderful way.
“I can’t believe we reached our goal. One of our members donated $1,100.00, and that helped us reach our goal,” says Ladies Auxiliary member, Joyce Ike. “I wrote a nice letter, thanking everyone, and added that we’ll do another one in the near future.”
After searching for an organization that they could work with, the Ladies Auxiliary found and teamed up with Southeastern Guide Dogs of Palmetto, Florida.
Ike explains how the idea came to mind and how Southeastern Guide Dogs was selected. “We found out from another member that they do it in Florida at their American Legion. They were able to do it, but they raised $50,000.” Ike and her colleagues decided to venture forward and looked into various service dog companies, but they also wanted $50,000. However, with Southeastern Guide Dogs, the veteran does not have to pay for the dog, the monies collected going towards the vet’s travel day and housing, and heading in to meet and train with his or her new service dog. The Ladies Auxiliary took about three months to collect the funds. “What we do is indicate that this money has to go towards a veteran, because they have other dogs that they train for blind people, and kids and families that are Gold Star families.”
Ike has been a member of the Ladies Auxiliary for 10 years, and she served as chairperson for the committee for the service dog. She is also on the committee which plans the distribution of poppies in April and May, and is heavily involved in ensuring that veterans are not lonely during Veterans Day and Valentines Day. She phoned Mount Olive and Stanhope High Schools, asking students to write cards and letters to veterans at both the Lyons VA Medical Center in Lyons, New Jersey, and the East Orange VA Hospital. And that’s not all. Ike and the Ladies Auxiliary have other on-going initiatives they are always working on. “We, the men and the women of the American Legion, put on parties down at the Lyons VA Medical Center,” she says. “We also buy them gloves and socks, and little lap blankets for the people that want to go outside when it's cold.”
The importance of service and being a veteran is significant in Ike’s household. Her husband, Steve, is a Vietnam veteran, and their daughter Kimberley is also a veteran, having served in the Iraq War. “She was 33 years old and she had her own apartment in Hackettstown, and was working, and she came home one day and she said, ‘Mom and Dad, I'm going into the army,’ Ike says, recalling the conversation. “Well, we about fell off our chairs. One of us said, ‘You're supposed to do that when you're 18 or 19, not 33.” It didn’t matter to Kimberley. She knew the cutoff age was 34, so she enlisted. “She said, ‘I want to leave on March 16,” Ike says. “That’s the same day that her dad went in, and she did not know that.”
Working with Southeastern Guide Dogs being as successful as it was, the Ladies Auxiliary has its eyes towards the future, thinking about another fundraiser. “I think our next one is going to be towards a Gold Star family,” Ike says. “In the future, probably in the spring, because we have a lot on our plate right now, doing things as the holidays come in. We're going to wait until the spring to do another fundraiser, which will go through the same company, naturally.”
And recipients of the goodness can live anywhere, not necessarily in New Jersey.
American Legion Post #278 in Stanhope is located at 119 Route 183. For additional information about the American Legion, visit www.legion.org. For more information about Southeastern Guide Dogs, visit their website at www.guidedogs.org.