Stockings stuffed with candy and small gifts are a small token, but they make a big difference to many veterans, according to Wally Garland.
Garland, who runs American Legion Causland Post 13 and provides services to local veterans, delivered stockings last week and chatted with the veterans, some of whom are nearing 100 years old.
They grinned when they received the gifts and shared hours of stories and memories from their time in the service, Garland said.
The gifts are small, but Garland said he worries about the effect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the American Legion’s ability to keep providing such things.
As the money in the organization dries up, Veterans Service Officers are funding things out of their own pockets (like the stockings), and Garland said he worries about the veterans who the organization serves.
Right now, the Anacortes post has five community service officers out helping people by connecting them with resources and delivering needed medication and equipment.
Those officers are post volunteers who have gone through training to be able to help people as best as they can, according to the American Legion website.
The Sedro-Woolley post of the American Legion recently closed, meaning the people in Anacortes are traveling farther to help more veterans.
When someone calls, Garland said he and his fellow service officers go out and help, no matter what.
Most of the time, that means listening and trying to connect the veteran to the right resources.
Normally, throughout the year, the Legion holds multiple fundraisers and collects donations to help run its post and get resources to help people.
This year, those donations are not coming, Garland said.
“We have been struggling all year,” he said. “The veteran needs are more than we’re able to provide.”
The Legion had a small office space to help veterans, but had to close it this year because of financial struggles.
They are working from their homes and trying to meet with veterans at the library (when it was open to the public) or in other spaces, including the veterans’ homes.
The pandemic brings challenges based on health, but problems don’t go away because there’s a virus, Garland said.
“The need is still there,” he said. “We can’t just abandon these vets.”
Normally, fundraisers and visibility mean donations for the legion, which is completely funded by private donation.
Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 376 in Anacortes. Anyone who wants to help or who needs more information can also call Garland at 360-770-9528.