Helping veterans on Valentine’s Day

American Legion Auxiliary hosting annual dance

Basket and bags are filled with household items donated through the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 194’s Baskets for the Homeless program. –CONTRIBUTED

Basket and bags are filled with household items donated through the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 194’s Baskets for the Homeless program. –CONTRIBUTED

PROSPECT — The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 194 has turned Valentine’s Day into more than a night for lovers.

For the past seven years, the unit has hosted a Valentine Dinner Dance to benefit terminally ill and homeless veterans. The 8th Annual Valentine Dinner Dance will be held Feb 14.

While the evening is about having a good time, all of the money goes to support two programs for veterans.

Department of Connecticut American Legion Auxiliary Secretary and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 194 President Sandra Plankey said the money will be used for the Grant a Wish and Baskets for the Homeless programs.

The Grant a Wish program uses money to help terminally ill veterans get their last wish, Plankey said. In the past, she said, the program helped to send a veteran and his daughter to a dude ranch for a final vacation and paid for a place ticket home for a veteran so he could be with his family one last time.

“There’s not a lot of calls for it, but when there is we are able to do it,” Plankey said. “It’s just amazing. It’s a big thing.”

The Baskets for the Homeless program works together with organizations that provide housing for homeless veterans.

The housing is often bare, containing just a bed, Plankey said. So, the auxiliary puts together baskets containing dishtowels, small appliances, bathroom items, hangers, dish detergent and groceries, Plankey said.

“We get them everything to start. It’s not just a room and bed anymore, it’s now a home for them,” Plankey said.

The two programs were started by past American Legion Auxiliary President Carol Muzzey after she visited VA Hospitals in 2005.

“I found there was little support from outside organizations for the homeless vets and the veterans in hospice were forgotten,” Muzzey said in a letter.

Plankey said the dance and programs have gained strong community support over the years.

“It’s really wonderful, the people that come forward and help, and the businesses that help us,” Plankey said.

The dance will be held Feb. 14, from 7 p.m. to midnight at The Crystal Room, 98 School St., Naugatuck. Tickets are $50 per person and include dinner, dancing and live music by the Mark Fusco Trio.

Tickets can be purchased at Margot’s Flower and Gifts at 34 Waterbury Road, Prospect. Anyone who wants to donate to the Grant a Wish and Baskets for the Homeless programs can send donations to American Legion Auxiliary, Tommy Merriman Unit 194, Attn. Unit President Sandra Plankey, PO Box 7192, Prospect, CT  06712.

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