The sixth annual Christmas project of the Harrisburg American Legion Auxiliary wouldn't have been a success without a surge of support from area residents and businesses, group secretary Janice MacLeod said.
For the past six years, Harrisburg's American Legion Post and Auxiliary No. 523 organized the community project to benefit veterans and military service members in Harrisburg and Salisbury.
"Thanks to the generosity and kindness of our local businesses and neighbors, our sixth year of providing 200 gift bags to hospitalized or ailing veterans was successful," said MacLeod. "As with other organizations, fundraising efforts were more difficult this year than in the past, obviously due to the current economy."
Each bag was filled with personal-care items and everyday toiletries. Those are some of the items patients request most often, because they can't afford to buy the items themselves.
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First-grade students at Harrisburg Elementary School decorated the gift bags and made a personal Christmas card for each recipient. A Harrisburg resident also donated four handmade lap blankets and six drawstring toiletry bags.
"Every bag and card was different and special," said MacLeod. "However, a week before our gifts were to be distributed, we realized that the bags would most likely contain only a few items, as donations and fundraising were significantly below what was needed."
So organizers sent an email to several people to emphasize the need for supplies and request more donations.
"Fortunately, our email was forwarded to other individuals and groups, and in short order we began receiving responses," said MacLeod.
"One individual, unknown to any of us, took $200 cash from his pocket, asked us to use it as needed and thanked us for the project we were undertaking."
With community support, the groups reached their goal of 200 gift bags.
"The recipients of those gifts bags and products were very, very appreciative, not just for the gifts themselves but for being remembered," said MacLeod. "The smiles, hugs and words of thanks from those veterans were abundant as we explained that our community remembered them and thanked them for their service."
In turn, the veterans asked organizers to thank those who supported the cause.
"There is no doubt that the generosity and kindness shown by our community brought happiness to 200 of the men and women who have served our country," said MacLeod.