Wilmette’s American Legion: Come visit
Christy Symons, Wilmette American Legion coordinator, talks about the location that is for rent to help raise money for their projects/charities. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
Updated: August 22, 2012 3:38AM
Members and supporters of the Wilmette American Legion Huerter Post 46 are inviting Wilmette area residents to honor the memory of those who gave their lives while serving in the American military, by attending the 2012 Memorial Day parade.
Veterans, community, school, and scouting organizations and others are scheduled to march in the parade, which steps off at 10:30 a.m. Monday from the St. Joseph School parking lot at Lake Avenue and Ridge Road. From there it will head east to Park Avenue, south on Park to Wilmette Avenue and conclude at Village Hall at 1200 Wilmette Avenue.
Parade units will include Veterans, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Wilmette Police and Fire Departments, and more. Once at the Village Hall, a brief ceremony will be held near the Wilmette war memorial.
In the days leading up to Memorial Day members of the Legion members fanned out on May 24, Poppy Day, selling poppy pins to wear May 28.
All Poppy Day sales and donations directly help hospitalized veterans. But area residents who want to do more to honor veterans and to help the American Legion as it does the same, have another way to do that, local Legion volunteers say.
They can look to Post 46 at 1925 Wilmette Ave., take advantage of its facilities, and in doing so support the many charitable efforts Post 46 members organize.
“We try to be a home for veterans, and for charitable activities like baseball teams, scouting, Special Olympics,” former post Commander Mike Jonscher of Wilmette said last week.
“We are invested heart, mind and soul, with maintaining those programs, and with keeping this as a veterans community center.”
The post, founded in 1920, gets its named from’ Peter Huerter, the first World War I military casualty from Grosse Point, Illinois (Wilmette’s predecessor community.) It currently has more than 200 members from Wilmette and neighboring North Shore communities.
The branch has operated out of its tree-shaded two-story brick headquarters just west of Ridge Road since the Legion purchased it in 1934.
Wilmette resident Christy Symons, who took over events coordination at the Legion Hall and management of its pub operation in April of 2011 from brother Curtis Johnson, is an enthusiastic backer of the Legion and its many programs.
“Not only does the Legion help veterans with programs like Operation Support Our Troops, but we support family members who have lost wives or husbands, we support other charities. So supporting the Legion supports all these good causes,” she said.
Equally important, she said, is the space that the American Legion provides to its members.
“I have gotten to know some of the old timers here, and realized how important it is to them to have a place where they can sit and talk with each other, or even just sit with each other, knowing that they are with people who understand what it means to be a veteran,” Symons said.
“One man told me that this was the only place he could feel at home, and that’s why I want to keep it healthy, and keep the doors open for him and for the rest of them.”
Since taking over management duties from her brother – who she praises for putting in years of dedicated elbow grease on behalf of the Legion – Symons has embarked, with the blessing of the board of directors, on an ambitious strategy to publicize Legion facilities.
The upstairs hall and its kitchen has been renovated with the help of a generous donation from a Northfield supporter. Both are available for meetings, parties and social events of all kinds, including inexpensive weddings.
(In fact, Symons’ first social event was a wedding last summer, whose participants declared the day a success despite an unexpected power outage.)
The cozy downstairs Legion pub is also available; members of the Legion and its auxiliary organizations can pay $15 annual memberships, and there are also applications for $25 annual “courtesy” memberships for members of the public.
“People drive by here, and don’t know what they have,” Symons said. “I feel so much life between these walls, and it’s here for people to use.”
Wilmette resident Mike Luxem, a long time Legion supporter, is a member of the Sons of the American Legion, one of the legion’s official ancillary organizations along with the American Legion Auxiliary. He currently serves as the SAL 7th District commander, serving Evanston, Wilmette, Morton Grove and Northbrook.
Luxem urged people to make use of the Legion, and to volunteer for Legion events and charitable campaigns.
“Figures from (American Legion) national headquarters tell us that many military veterans who are now leaving active service may not join the Legion for another 10 years, because they want to get back to civilian life, find a job, start a family,” Luxem said. “But eventually many of them turn to the Legion.”
“We want people to know that we’re here for them. We have to keep the lights on, keep the organization going and strong so that when, sooner or later, that veteran walks through the doors needing us, we’ll be here.”
To learn more about American Legion Huerter Post 46, and about its facilities, visit www.wilmette46.com or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/American-Legion-Wilmette-Post-46/ or call (847) 251-9824.