BETHLEHEM Since its inception in 1931, Bethlehem’s Nathaniel Adams Blanchard American Legion Post 1040 has made supporting the community its chief goal. And that’s a message the group wants to focus on as membership in veterans organizations wanes nationwide.
Despite a down economy, many members have put in the extra hours to continue to raise a steady stream of funds through public and members-only events. In 2012, the Post raised $31,715 for charitable causes, the majority of which stayed within Albany County.
“As we lose members, we need to raise interest in order to gain more,” said Barry Bedrosian, a fundraising coordinator with the post. “We need active members to help with the events to continue to give to the community.”
The largest portion of the funds donated last year, more than $8,000, went toward various veterans programs and to the Stratton VA Hospital. The second largest allocation went toward helping fund honor flights for World War II veterans. The Freedom Honor Flight organization is a nonprofit that raises money to send veterans to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The rest of the money went toward local community groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Tri-Village Little League, Bethlehem Youth Court, Bethlehem Community Fund, Bethlehem Pop Warner and a number of scholarships for those graduating Bethlehem High School.
“While we are here to support America’s veterans and current servicemen and women, we recognize that when we served, Americans were there to support us,” said Legion Commander Steve Riedel. “It’s only appropriate that we return the favor and give back to the community. Most of our community-based giving is focused on children. They are our future.”
Post 1040 has more than 700 members involved in all three of its organizations. The Legion is for those who have served in the military, while the Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion are for spouses, family and offspring of veterans.