By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Veterans Day was Thursday, and while many gave thanks to those who have or are currently serving the country in the military, the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary of Liberal is taking the expression of gratitude a step further this Christmas.
The Legion and Auxiliary are conducting a holiday drive for veterans in the Thomas Creek VA Hospital and Nursing Home in Amarillo, Texas. The groups are now seeking donations of items, such as sleep pants, shirts, pajamas, house shoes and socks, as well as toiletry items.
Auxiliary member Kay Epp explained there are about 125 veterans, 120 men and five women, who currently reside at the Amarillo facility, and she said group members want to collect at least enough items to give each vet a gift.
Epp said much has already been collected, including the donation of a TV, and those who wish to give can likewise give puzzles and big letter reading books for recreation for the vets.
“We just thought with these people that are down there, they don’t have anything,” she said. “They just live there. They have a roof over their head and meals. We thought with Christmas coming up, this would be so great if we could just give to these veterans who have fought for our country. Some of these people have lost legs. Some of them have lost arms. We just decided this year, we’re going to see if the public responds to it. It has been wonderful.”
Epp said a Dec. 6 cutoff date has been set for the donation of items, and she, along with her husband, Aaron, and Linda and Daryl DeCamp, will personally deliver all of the items to Amarillo. She said the date was set due to the unknown nature of weather in the area this time of year.
Epp said some people have also donated money, and she said for those wishing to do so, she and Linda DeCamp will use the money to shop for items which are lacking in the collections.
“We pick up what we don’t have a lot of,” she said. “If the people that donate the money want to know what we bought with their money, all they have to do is give me their name and phone, and I will be glad to let them know what we purchased with their money.”
Epp said for older people who want to give something, but don’t get out to shop, they can likewise give money.
“We are doing that, and as soon as we get the money, we go down,” she said. “We look for sales, and we make sure that money is spent.”
Epp said collections have been wonderful so far, and many have said they would like to donate more often.
“I’ve had a lot of people say ‘Why do we just have to do this at the holidays? Why don’t we do this all year long,’” she said. “I told them probably about 80 percent of our men here at the American Legion in Liberal do doctor in Amarillo at the VA clinic. There is somebody from there going to Amarillo all the time. If they want to gather up stuff and give it to one of us when we do make a trip down there during the year, we can deliver it. We’ve had a good response.”
Epp emphasized the money collected is being spent, and the goal of the Legion and the Auxiliary is to get a gift to each veteran at the Amarillo center.
“We’ve got a lot already, but we still need more,” she said. “We’re hoping everybody will be able to get something. The toiletry items, we are getting a lot of that stuff, and I’m sure they will all be able to utilize that.”
Epp said the high number of local and area vets utilizing the Amarillo clinic was the primary factor in choosing the hospital as the recipient of the collections from the holiday drive.
“We thought we need to give back to this nursing home and staff as a thank you for the great care they give our men,” she said.
Epp said the VA clinic at the Depot in Liberal has a van which takes patients to Amarillo who have no other means of travel.
“We just thought it was time to say thank you to the hospital, to the nursing home for our care that we get and let the men and women that are less fortunate try to have a happier holiday,” she said.
Donations for the holiday drive may be dropped off at Aaron Epp Repair at 204 E. Eighth in Liberal or at KSCB Radio Station at 15th and Western.
“They have been great to us on helping us with the drop off,” Epp said. “I’ve had people ring my doorbell and just leave boxes of stuff with me, but those are the two drop off points. Anybody can call any member and leave stuff with them.”
For more information about the holiday drive, call Epp at 580-778-3793 or Linda De Camp at 624-6325.