The Veterans of Foreign Wars does a lot of good, including providing a social outlet for service members, giving money and time to better the community, and advocating on behalf of veterans. And since its establishment in 1914, the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW has played a big role in helping accomplish this mission.
The Ladies Auxiliary of VFW Post 9462 in Absecon has been instrumental, but in January, members outdid themselves, raising nearly $5,000 through a penny auction to help homeless veterans in New Jersey.
Donna Wagner, the post's president, said she was amazed by how much she and her group raised.
"I was very surprised," said Wagner, who lives in Galloway Township. "I had no clue that we would raise that kind of money. It was awesome. I couldn't even fathom what we would raise, but I never thought it would be in the thousands."
The funds will go to purchase a van to transport veterans at Veterans Haven North in Glen Gardner, which provides housing, counseling and job services for homeless veterans in New Jersey.
A veritable who's who of both organizations, including VFW State Commander Warren George and Ladies Auxiliary State President Kathy Marshall, attended Post 9462's monthly meeting March 18 to accept the check and express their thanks.
Marshall was stunned at the size of Post 9462's donation, saying it was the second largest sum she has seen raised through a penny auction in her years with the Ladies Auxiliary.
"It was an amazing feat, what they did," Marshall said. "The amount of dollars they have donated to this project is going to go a long way."
Marshall said the VFW is looking to purchase a used nine-passenger full-size van, and estimated that the donation will cover about a quarter of the price.
In preparation for the penny auction, the members of the ladies auxiliary spent many long hours on the phone and behind the wheel soliciting donations from throughout the Absecon area.
All told, more than 100 businesses and community members came together to donate 284 items ranging from baskets of bagels to hotel getaways. Among the donors were Bob's Seafood in Absecon, Bagel Gourmet in Galloway Township and the Smithville Inn in Smithville.
Event chair Maureen Mahoney-Dunn said she was amazed at the volume of support the Ladies Auxiliary received in its effort.
"The kindness from the community was overwhelming," Mahoney-Dunn said. "I totally feel lucky."
The penny auction is just the tip of the iceberg of what the local Ladies Auxiliary does, said Bob Ford, Post 9462's senior vice commander. In addition to running periodic fundraisers, members organize Christmas parties for the residents of Veterans Haven, they run recreational programs at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Vineland and more.
With all they do, Ford said, it's clear that the ladies of the local auxiliary are vital partners of the VFW.
"There are so many different things they are involved in, and it's goodwill things," Ford said. "It helps with everything we do with the VFW. It is a big, big part of it."
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