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American Legion Post 63

 271 West Plant Street

Winter Garden, FL 34787-3011


Website: www.wintergardenpost63.org

                                                                     E-Mail: americanlegion63@cfl.rr.org                                                                                                                                             


                                                                                  JANUARY & FEBRUARY 2018

                                                                                                          December 29, 2017


Monthly Schedule

            Post 63 Meetings:  Jan  11 @ 7:00PM                     Auxiliary Meetings:  Jan  18 @6:00PM
                                       Feb  08 @ 7:00PM                                                 Feb 15 @6:00PM         

             Dining Out:          Jan  12 @ 6:30PM                      Sons of the Legion:   Jan  11 @6:00PM
                                       Feb  09 @ 6:30 PM                                                   Feb  09 @6:00PM

                Bingo: Monday 6:00PM                                     Blood Drive:            Jan 31 from 2-7PM

                Veterans Open House:  Wednesdays from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM (coffee, conversation, cards?)



Commander’s News

   The Post would like to wish all our Legionnaires and their families Happy Holidays and Good Fortune and Happiness during the coming year.  Once again the Post this year was well decorated for the holidays and our float in the Christmas Parade came in second place in our category. 

   Post elections are just around the corner.  We will be taking nominations in March 2018 at our general meeting.  I for one will not be running for reelection.  I have served for 12 years and I have accomplished everything that I set out to do.  Taking over the Post in 2007 when the Post was about to be deactivated due to no activity for over 6 months and being in debt with all utilities being shut off,  with the help of all my Officers over the past 12 years, we have made the Post 63 one of the best in District 6.  We have several Legionnaires who are well qualified to take the position of Commander.  I will not run for any office in 2018, but I will help where needed.  It has been a pleasure and most rewarding during my tenure and I thank everyone for all their support over the past 12 years.

   I would like to thank the Auxiliary for picking up the pieces over the last 6 months.  They faced a similar situation that I did back in 2007.  They have reformed their Officers structures after being left with a big mess after the past President left.  They too will grow strong and be a good support to the Post. 

   Last of all I would like to thank everyone who has paid their renewal dues.  We are at 91%.  We have also had a lot of new members joining this year which has helped to get our percentage where it is.  Thanks to Kurt Gies our Vice Commander who has made one of his priorities to increase the membership numbers of this Post.  If you have not paid your renewal dues please do so as soon as possible.  


Blood Drive Chairman

   The next Blood Drive will be held on January 31st from 2:00 -7:0 PM. As usual, the Big Red Bus will be parked on Plant Street right next door to the Post.  Refreshments will be on hand at the Post and, since the regular Wednesday Open House is going on, there will be members and other vets available for conversation and rest after you donate!  If you are looking for something worthwhile to do and cannot donate blood, the folks who sit and help out beside the bus would welcome your company.

The Blood Drive Schedule for 2018 has been set as follows:  Jan 31, Mar 28, May 23, July 18, Sept 12 and Nov 7.  These dates are set so that those of you who like to donate regularly can be sure that you are within the required wait time.  Please mark your calendars.


Historian’s Note

   January is the First month of the Centennial Year!  The Legion is 100 years old!   Our Post has a site on the Centennial Page of the Florida Department website.  We’ll be adding more to it including, hopefully, a video of the Post in the near future.  You can access it by going to the Department website and looking for the centennial list.   

As you all probably know, we have very little by way of history so anything you might find in your attic or old albums would be helpful, or you might want to share some memories that we could record and keep for the next Legionnaires.  We know that the post participated in parades, celebrations, dedications, dances, scouts, dinners, fishing tournaments, civil defense and more in the 99 years we have been chartered, but we don’t have much to show for it.  We’ve been an integral part of our community and this year is a good time to remind ourselves and our neighbors that we’re still here and still serving. 


Chaplain’s News

   Our Chaplain (Tom) will be working out of town for a while.  If you have a problem that we can help with or if you know of a member who is ill, please call the Post and let us know.  The adjutant (Joan) will be glad to help. 



Scholarship time is approaching; If you know of a child in his or her Senior year in High School, please encourage them to look up our website.  The requirements and the application are there.  The deadline is in April.  Last year, we would have given three but had only two applicants please let parents and students know of this.  




From The Vice Commander’s Desk:

   Our current membership stands at 91.2% or 186 members.  The good news is we have added about 42 new Legionnaires and transfers in so far this year.  Unfortunately this translates to there are approximately 60 existing Post 63 Legionnaires who have not yet sent in their renewal.  According to the American Legion by laws, your membership is no longer in good standing if you have not renewed by Dec 31st, 2017.  Now if you’re at all like me, the whole renewal process seems very confusing as there are different dates that are considered the start of a new “year”.  Based on numerous conversations to try an understand it all, here is a summary (as best as I can determine) of what they mean:

  • The Membership card you receive each year is valid from January 1st to Dec 31st, no matter when you initially signed up to be a Legionnaire.  Therefore you must renew by Dec 31st of each year to be considered “current”.
  • The Florida Department’s “year” starts July 1st and goes thru June 30th of each year.  All Dept officers are elected at the annual convention and serve from July to June. The Membership goals outlined by the Dept are based on the local post’s roster as of Jan 1st of each year.
  • The local Post’s “year” also starts July 1st and goes thru June 30th of each year.  All Post 63 officers are elected in April, but won’t be sworn in until after the Dept. convention in July.  The Post officers serve from July to June.
  • National’s “year” starts July 1st and goes thru June 30th.  All National officers are elected at the annual National convention, which isn’t typically until August.  Therefore, the National officers typically serve from August to July.  (The 100th National Convention which will be held August 24 - 30, 2018, in Minneapolis, Minnesota…you should join us).

   On July 1st each year, National starts sending out membership renewal notices.  The goal is that all current Legion members will renew immediately, so that our efforts can be focused on growing the organization with new members.  If we expend all our energy trying to remind everyone to renew, then it makes it difficult to focus on growth.  At 2.0 million members nationwide, the Legion has seen a steady reduction in Legionnaires over the past few years from 2.7 million.  Therefore, our focus needs to be on reversing this trend.  Otherwise, we could be in danger of losing the national megaphone we have had for the last 100 years.  By renewing your dues immediately upon receipt of the notification, it will allow us to focus on growth again.

   With these various dates laid out above, here are three examples that will help you better understand the renewal process:

  1. You join the Legion on January 1st.  The membership card received is current thru Dec 31st, so your dues are not required to be renewed until Dec of that year.  But in July, National will be sending out a renewal notices.  The hope is that you go ahead and renew your membership in July and then every year after, you renew in July.
  2. You join the Legion on June 30th.  Unfortunately the membership is only current thru Dec 31st of that year.  National will be sending out a renewal notice to the post immediately in July.  This is the worst case scenario as you will be required to renew, even though you just joined.  If this is you, the hope is that you go ahead and renew in July and then every year after, you renew in July.
  3. You join the Legion on July 1st.  Because you joined after July 1st, your membership card is now good thru Dec 31st of the following year or basically good 18 months.  This is the best case scenario as National won’t be sending out a renewal notice to you until July of the following year. 

   Therefore in situation #2 (with the permission of the veteran), the Post will typically wait to submit any new applications for membership until after July 1st.  This way, we won’t be asked to renew the day after joining.  Unfortunately, National had to come up with a cutoff date, and June 30th is it.

   The best way to avoid any confusion is to just go ahead and renew when the initial notification comes out in July; this way your dues get on a 12 month cycle payable every July.

   The other way is to go the “Paid Up for Life” (PUFL) option.  This allows you to pay your dues once and never have to worry about it ever again.  For more information on the PUFL program, please visit our website.



Well, this year the Auxiliary got off to a good start, trying to get ourselves up and trained and accomplishing things.  We distributed Poppies on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day. Thanks to our Poppy Chairman Shirley Miles and her helpers, we collected enough funds to provide pajamas and gifts for vets in our local rehab centers. Other projects for the Poppy fund will be discussed at our meetings. 

Our President, Cathy Carter had surgery in December but is feeling better and getting about as she can.  We wish her a speedy recovery.

We held our Annual Children’s Christmas Party on the 16th of December with 60 children in attendance.  What a great time!  With the generous support of the Post and we were able to provide gifts for all.  And we must thank two members of the Post:  Jerry Kuffner manning the kitchen and Tom Powell (sometimes known as Santa Claus).  Cathy, Loretha, Wendy, Joan, April, and more folks than I can remember came together to make the party memorable.

Elections are coming; we’ll be having nominations in March and the actual election in April.  Shirley will not be able to continue as secretary because of her health, but Wendy Lavery has volunteered to stand in for Shirley and is already providing us with updates by E-Mail. Karen Jordan is working with Wendy to make our communications more effective. If you have an E-Mail address and haven’t gotten it in to us, please let us know at the next meeting (Jan 18), or give Joan Taylor a call at: 407 257 6482.

Remember that our meetings start at 6:00 PM with coffee or tea and time for sharing news with each other before we start the formal part of the meeting.  Hope to see you in January.


Events at the Post in 2017

   As a post, we have done as much as we could this year to live up to our commitment to the concepts of service which those Doughboys back in WWI expressed in our American Legion Preamble.  These are accomplishments of the Post collectively. Some of us do things as a group and others individually but we all, as members, participate in our own way.  We’ve done some good work, next year, we’ll do more.

-We presented trophies at the West Orange High School Air Force JROTC drill meet.  Later, at their annual JROTC Awards ceremony, we presented medals and a donation for the JROTC program.

-Dinners out continued with good attendance (depending on the venue) and was enjoyed by all. -Two Scholarships of $1,000.00 apiece were awarded to students in our area High Schools. 

-Four boys were sent to Boys State. 

-We participated in Community Ceremonies for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. 

-Our School Medals program has grown to 8 elementary schools in our community and we were there at all of their 5th grade graduation ceremonies to present medals to their outstanding graduates. 

-We attempted to inaugurate a “Movie Night which didn’t go over so well (no one attended but Luis and Joan) ah well, we thought it was a good ideaL.

-We hosted the One Blood mobile donation bus 7 times for a total of 81 donors, saving approximately 165 lives.

-Richard continued to bring monthly Bingo to the folks who live in Golden Pond Assisted Living Center. 

-We presented awards to our Fire fighter and policeman of the year. 

-We had a great Awards and Anniversary Party (celebrating 97 years of permanent charter).  -We hosted a Community Theater presentation of “Southern Fried Murder” with our Adjutant as a guest “actor”J.

-We finally gave Boots” to a Vet who needed a service dog.

 -Finally, with several months of hard work our 1st Vice Commander and our Public Affairs Officer were able to pull together volunteers and sponsors produce our first annual Challenge 22 Ruck Walk. 

Kurt Gies’ report on the Ruck Walk continues below:


   Winter Garden Post 63 successfully completed its inaugural event called Challenge 22 on Saturday, November 18th 2017, in hopes of bringing greater awareness to the community to the 22 veteran suicides that happen every day   Backed by the motto, #22 Until Zero, through the leadership of  Ashley Moir (Public Affairs Chairman) and Kurt Gies (1st Vice Commander), this fundraiser/5k walk and concert was the first of what is earmarked to be a series of reproducible awareness events throughout the state of Florida, and ultimately nationwide.

   Several objectives were high priority in planning for this year’s activities and events for Post 63.  Although membership numbers remained strong, the amount of new members, and younger members joining the post was critically low, and needed to be supercharged sooner than later if the post is to continue to thrive for generations to come.  Additionally, many of the post leaders felt a strong need to put God back into the forefront of its existence, reinforcing the preamble, “For God and country…” But when the epidemic of veteran suicides began to personally impact post members, the lightbulb went off; this event was to be one that reached and appealed to the younger veterans, and offered help and hope to those struggling with PTS and life off of the battlefield, with God at the center.

   What transpired was an adaptation of the popular Silkies-Ruck walks, that have been helping younger veterans cope with post war loss; Rather than the usual 22 kilometers however, the walk was shortened to just 5k, which allowed the community to experience the power of such presence.

   From babies in strollers to World War II veterans in star spangled golf carts, nearly 400 veterans and civilians together marched through downtown Winter Garden, along the historic West Orange trail, and through the grounds of Lakeview Middle School, which at one time served as one of the state’s top hospitals for injured veterans during World War II.  And leading the walk, was Fernando Rivas, with his new companion, “Boots”, whom you may remember is the Service Dog whose $18k training for PTS was provided by our Post.  Boots was presented to Fernando, an Army Vet, as a highlight of the event. 

 The Event was exciting and busy with opportunities to join the Legion Family,  Challenge 22 branded merchandise, a raffle of 36 donated items, T-shirt sales, a beer and food trucks, patriotic and educational arts and crafts for kids, suicide prevention vendors, and a unique blend of live, top-notch musicians who performed on a 40’x24’ stage, with a variety of powerful tributes by our Legionnaires, county commissioners, and community volunteers who opened and closed the event with dignity and class.

   From the invocation led by National Chaplain Robert Vick, to the local Boy Scout troop demonstrating a flag retirement ceremony accompanied by the Department Adjutant, Chaplain and an AFJROTC Cadet from Wet Orange HS, the general public was enlightened and educated on four very important issues: Veteran Suicides, PTS, Americanism, and the role and power of the American Legion to make a difference.  With their participation and donations, the American Legion Post 63 raised and donated over $13,000 to PROJECT VetRelief.

   “Hopefully this is just the beginning of a nationwide movement of the American Legion to bring awareness and the community behind solving this crisis”, said Vice Commander Kurt Gies.  “The VA does a good job fixing the broken bones and putting a bandage on the wounds, but because they’re government, they can’t touch the soul and they can’t touch the spirit.  It’s time we put God back into the equation, as our Preamble states…’For God and Country…’ and God comes first”.                                                                   


God Bless America.              God Bless Our Serving Troops.          God Bless Our Veterans.