Sunnyside VFW earns national recognition

In a volunteer organization, it's a phenomenal task to find someone willing to track minute details on a regular basis, but the Sunnyside VFW Post and Ladies Auxiliary has managed to do so, and with the help of Bill Ingram and Betty George, it has earned the local organization national recognition.

The Sunnyside organization is one of 68 posts to receive the National Community Service Post Award. There are 8,500 VFW posts worldwide.

Ingram has known about the award since June, but had to keep it a secret until the VFW national convention in September.

There are three reports that must be filed monthly: a community service report form, a Post hospital report form and a chaplains report.

The community service report form is the most detailed and posts must report on community service efforts, citizen education, aid to others and youth activities.

"(National) wants to know what a post is doing," explained Ingram. "And whether or not they're keeping up with their obligations."

Evidently, the Sunnyside post is thriving at achieving that goal.

For the month of August alone, the local post recycled cans with proceeds benefiting veteran programs, worked on National Night Out with the Sunnyside Police Department, participated in the Grandview parade and served as honor guard at four funerals, loaned travel funds to a veteran, had a member work with Boy Scouts, prepared Voice of Democracy papers for local schools, taught area youths safety basics and visited a local unit about to be deployed to Iraq.

Each program is painstakingly logged on the community service report, including details like how much it costs a volunteer or group of volunteers and how many hours are spent working on a project.

Ingram said one of the biggest things the post does is serve as honor guards at funerals of veterans.

"That is one of our main things that we do, to be able to do the funerals for our fallen comrades," he said.

Youth outreach is important, too. The post recently held its "Voice of Democracy" contest in which high school students are given a patriotic theme to address and then tape record a three to five minute response.

"You find out what the youth can do, they surprise you on stuff like that," said Ingram. "To read the essays and listen to the tapes, it's really neat to listen to the different (aspect) of what each person is thinking about."

Ingram noted that tomorrow, Saturday, the post will host its Voice of Democracy banquet, which has drawn the attention and attendance of Washington State VFW Commander Steve Stetson.

Ingram said that the painstaking reports couldn't have been done without the work of George, the community service chairwoman.

"Sometimes the reports can take two hours to fill out," he said, adding that the person doing the paperwork has to know everything the post has done that month, like bake sales that benefit cancer victims and collecting aluminum cans.

The post is also able to loan out medical equipment, like wheelchairs, crutches and nebulizers. This must be tracked and reported, too.

The national post rewarded Sunnyside with a reflective door sign, alerting the community to the honor bestowed there.

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