By Dawn Hensil
The Shinnston American Legion Post 31 recently received a gift from Derek Sutphin, whose parents are a former member and a current Legion Auxiliary member. Sutphin, who has a disability himself, wanted to give back to a veteran in need and decided to donate his wheelchair to the Legion so that he could help a disabled veteran have more mobility, greatly improving their life.
Post 31 works with the Paralyzed Veterans of America and has received multiple used wheelchair donations. Among those involved include: Tom Jenkins, member and trustee; Tom Willis, service officer for Post 31; Commander Bruce Grimes; Melvin Sows; and Frank Nicholson. So far they have donated 4 wheelchairs and a ramp to the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
In honor of Sutphin, the post hosted a dinner and signed a card in gratitude. “Thank you, Derek, from the bottom of our hearts and God bless you,” said Robin Shingleton, Post 31 public affairs officer/historian.
The wheelchair would have cost over $20,000 new at purchase. Members have not yet selected a recipient.
On one occasion the post received a ramp as a donation. Members went to the donor’s home, removed the ramp, took it to a new location and set it up for the recipient.
The American Legion is “the nation’s largest veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow servicemembers and veterans,” according to the West Virginia chapter website.
Post 31 helps veterans in need in several ways. Once a month the members go to the VA Food Pantry and collect food for veterans in need. Willis said, “We have some individuals who count on our food donations.”
The post also takes part in other charitable programs, such as donating fruit baskets to patients and residents of the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility and the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.
They also collect money for a program for the patients of the veteran’s hospital. Those patients can come into a shop set up for them and they can pick out gifts for family members or loved ones, since many of the patients are unable to go out and shop for Christmas. If the veteran does not have anyone to shop for, they are welcome to pick out two items for themselves.
Post 31 members said they strive to do as much as they can for our veterans and members of the community. They have given scholarship money to graduating seniors, sponsored students to attend Boys and Girls State every summer, and donated money to Lincoln High School Band towards the band trailer for parades.
“We invite anyone interested to come by and see what we do,” Willis said. “We are a family here.”
The Post offers dinner every Sunday to their members and friends from 5 until 6 p.m. Willis said they extend open invitations to those in need of a meal.
He was also excited to talk about their newest program: Together with Veterans. “It’s a national program focused on preventing veterans’ suicide,” he said. More information on that program is to come.
Post 31 is located at 76 Bridge Street.