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Albert Lea American Legion members brighten days of veterans, auxiliary ladies with annual gifts of poinsettias

Members of the Leo Carey American Legion Post 56 and the Albert Lea American Legion Riders this week delivered holiday cheer to veterans and Legion Auxiliary members in care facilities across the city.

The organizations gave out over 100 poinsettias at Good Samaritan Society, Thorne Crest Senior Living Community, St. John’s Lutheran Community, Oak Park Place and Prairie Senior Cottages. The poinsettias were purchased from Home Depot in Albert Lea.

“This is a time to show our community our spirit that we’re here for our veterans and also our auxiliary members,” said American Legion Post 56 Cmdr. Jeff Olson.

Olson said the organizations have given out poinsettias in the past, and it was something they felt was particularly needed this year to show the veterans and auxiliary members support and thanks from the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While last year, 25 volunteers disbursed the flowers throughout the facilities in-person and shared stories and companionship during their visits, this year staff from each of the facilities helped distribute them to the residents in their facilities.

“We just thank our vets and our auxiliary ladies,” Olson said. “We also pay tribute to all the nursing staff — for their help in keeping these individuals safe and being their families when they can’t have their families there now.” 

The flowers were purchased with donations made throughout the year to the American Legion Post 56 and Auxiliary, the Albert Lea American Legion Riders and the Sons of the American Legion.

Kathleen Woodside, director of public relations and marketing at St. John’s Lutheran Community, thanked those involved for their gifts. She said 45 veterans and auxiliary members received poinsettias at her facility.

“It has been a very challenging year for everyone, and this beautiful gift brightened the day of so many veterans,” Woodside said. “The St. John’s residents and tenants enjoyed receiving their plants, and the thoughtful gift made everyone smile and warmed many hearts.”

Catherine Buboltz, sales and marketing director at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community, said the Leo Carey American Legion Post 56 has gone above and beyond this past year to remain committed to area veterans.

“Normally the Legion Riders, Legion Auxiliary members and Sons of the Legion have taken the time to come and socialize with our resident veterans, along with bringing gifts throughout the year,” Buboltz said. “Legion Post No. 56 has done a great job of adapting to the changes brought forth with the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued to reach out to our veterans, with cards and gifts to thank them for their service and to remind them they are not forgotten.”

She said veterans have been delighted with the items that have been brought in. Twenty-four people received poinsettias.

“Thank you to our local post for all of their efforts to make sure our veterans know we are appreciative of their service and we have not forgotten them,” Buboltz said.

Shelly Mehus, director of housing at Oak Park Place, said the residents who received poinsettias at her facility were touched by the special effort made for them. One even asked how to keep the plant alive.

“The gifts made them feel special — as does being recognized for their service,” she said.

Olson said the poinsettia is a modest token of appreciation and respect for the veterans and auxiliary ladies, recognizing the veterans for their service to the country and the sacrifices they made to keep the freedoms here.

“We are hoping next year will be a different story as we truly miss being a part of the poinsettia presentation,” he said. “Our Legion Post members, Legion Auxiliary, Legion Riders and our Sons of American Legion want to wish our community Merry Christmas.”