Indiana Legion post provides $407,000 to its community

Last July, American Legion Post 235 arrived in Milan, Indiana, to assist the family of a 20-year-old US Marine killed during the suicide bombing at Kabul International Airport that killed 13 US soldiers and 170 Afghan civilians , was critically injured. The attack left Cpl. Kelsee Lainhart, who graduated from high school less than 20 miles from the post office, was paralyzed from the chest down.

Upon learning that Lainhart’s family was struggling to navigate the aid process, members of Post 235 decided to donate $50,000 to Lainhart’s mother. But that was far from the extent of Post 235’s generosity in 2022.

The Post recently announced on Facebook that a successful year with its weekly Treasure Hunt game enabled it to provide $407,000 in donations and support to local organizations, individuals and others.

Commander Walt Ruggles said Post 235’s American Legion Family found the number “staggering when we added it up at the end of the year. But it gives us a good feeling that we can do that now. We have also fought in the past. But we’ve had good luck with this treasure hunt drawing over the years, and now we can do some things we couldn’t do before.

“A few years ago we didn’t know how to pay our bills. We can now. And if our community hadn’t supported us by coming to play this game, we wouldn’t be able to do these things.”

There is an application process for organizations and others requesting support through the mail. “We have a form for people who come to us and want to donate,” he said. “We don’t just hand out money to people. We ask you on this form to tell us what you have done, apart from coming to us to get money for some project or cause you are doing. And we try to fill in what they couldn’t get (from other sources). And we bring it up to our members at our meetings to vote on.”

This year’s donations included $50,000 to the Milan Volunteer Fire Department for the purchase of a new fire truck. The money also went to an American Legion post that couldn’t cover the deductible after its HVAC system was struck by lightning and another post whose fire suppression system in its kitchen failed to meet regulations.

The post also supported a Veterans of Foreign Wars post that needed repairing a leaky roof, supported local athletic programs, donated to Wreaths Across America to ensure every Ripley County veteran’s grave was covered with a wreath, provided college scholarships for graduating seniors and made a significant donation to the Honor Flight Network of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Funds also went to the Milan Community Emergency Food Bank and local churches, which provide free meals during the holiday season. Those assisted included families who lost their homes due to fires and a motorcyclist who was injured in an accident and was unable to pay his medical bills.

Walton stressed that the money was the result of a collaborative effort by the American Legion Family. “When we talk about our Legion here, we speak as a group,” he said. “With the (American Legion) Auxiliary and the Sons (of The American Legion), the Legion couldn’t do what it’s doing. We work very well together. And we’re all about supporting our community.”