In the 1930s, a group of women in the Redwood Area opted to form a group dedicated to serving the needs of veterans and the community as a whole.
Known as VFW Post 2553 Aux-iliary, the local post was officially chartered Jan. 24, 1935.
After nearly 80 years of service, the local VFW auxiliary held its last meeting in March and at that meeting officially dissolved.
“It was a tough and sad decision. It really is a shame,” said Betty Mahoney, who was serving as the auxiliary’s president when the decision to dissolve was made. “We just were not getting enough members to come to our meetings, and the few of us who were active are getting older now. Among the officers I am the youngest, and I’m 84.”
Mahoney said there were 123 members still on the auxiliary rolls when the decision to give up the charter was made, but there were typically eight to 10 members who would come to meetings – barely enough to be considered a quorum and to even conduct business.
Mahoney said the original charter included 32 members, and in its heyday the auxiliary had a membership of more than 400.
Those original members were the mothers of men who were serving, and over time the group included a number of women whose husbands had served.
Mahoney’s husband, John, served as a Ma-rine pilot, and because of his service, as well as the service of her son, Bob, she became very involved in the auxiliary.
What began with meetings above the Wilson’s Store ultimately moved to the VFW Post Hall, and in the final years those who were actively meeting gathered at Sunwood – primarily because of the ease of access.
Over the years, the auxiliary took part in a variety of service projects in the community and at the state and national level, especially at it related to veterans.
Mahoney recalled doing everything from holding dinners for the fire department to serving at blood drives, with the members raising funds for veterans’ hospitals and for packages to send to those in veterans’ long-term care facilities.
Giving up the charter also meant clearing its finances, and Mahoney said at the final meeting those dollars were allocated to various organizations, including the Friends of the Park, the VFW National Home for Children, Sunwood Good Samaritan Soci-ety, the VFW District 3 Auxiliary, the Easter Seals, calling cards for the U.S. Armed Forces, the VA health center in St. Cloud, the Salvation Army, cancer research and the local food shelf.
More than $1,500 was donated to charities the auxiliary has supported over the years.
Many events and activities were made possible over the years through the sponsorship of the VFW Auxiliary, said Mahoney, including sponsorship of a girls softball team, a one-time Poppy queen and pillow cleaning.
Page 2 of 2 - Mahoney said one of the highlights of the year was the annual Hallow-een party, which she said was very well attended for many years. However, a de-cline in attendance led the auxiliary to stop hosting that a couple of years ago.
One of its biggest fundraisers each year was the sale of poppies, which Mahoney said veterans made, and the sale of those poppies helped to provide funds for veterans.
While that project is not going to continue as a VFW Auxiliary sponsored event, Mahoney said the VFW is going to keep selling them.
That sale is going to be held soon, said Mahoney, adding it is some time in May.
With the closing of the local auxiliary, Mahoney said members have the opportunity to join with another group, and she said there are auxiliaries in Olivia, Marshall and Fairfax – the closest to Redwood County. However, she said one can become a member of any group.
Mahoney said she plans on joining up with the Olivia group, but added because of the distance she would have to travel to attend meetings, which are held at night, she does not think she is going to be as active as she has been in the past.
Mahoney did add, however, the local auxiliary members plan to continue helping the VFW Post with its projects as they continue.
The charter must now be sent into the state, and Mahoney said many of the group’s historic artifacts are going to be donated to the local museum.
Yes, she added, there could be a chance to open the charter again in the future, but she added the lack of interest would not indicate that is going to happen any time soon.
Mahoney said she sent out letters addressing the potential dissolution in advance of the decision. She requested responses one way or the other from members to see just how much interest there was in continuing. The fact she received less than 10 responses provided a good indication.
The VFW Auxiliary helped sponsor the Voice of Democracy and Patriotic Pen essay contests over the years.
Mahoney said it seems as if many of the auxiliary groups are hurting, adding as a member of the local American Legion Auxil-iary the story there is similar.
Mahoney said she enjoyed her time as a member of the local VFW Auxiliary, adding she truly believed the group truly helped to make a difference in the community.