Colonel Jacob Morgan American Legion Post 537 held their 'Ride in Memory of Ed Beiler' on June 23, a Poker Run in memory of the post member who lost his fight against cancer two years ago. The day saw over 170 people turn out to honor Beiler's memory and support the Holly Heilman Cancer Fund. Among those present were Ed Beiler's wife Dee, who arrived with Ed's leather jacket, riding vest, and helmet, and also Dave Clouser, a member of the Board of Directors from the Holly Heilman Cancer Fund (whose wife has recently gone in to remission in her fight against breast cancer). Both Beiler and Clouser thanked everyone for their support for the event and the fund.
Post 537, just as other American Legion posts across the nation, is comprised of several different groups that make up the whole. Among these are the Auxiliary, an all-volunteer group which is comprised of women who support the post and the community in many different ways including - but not limited to - fundraising efforts such as the 'Ride in Memory of Ed Beiler'.
Nationally, the American Legion Auxiliary was founded in 1919, and has over one million members who administer volunteer programs, give time to communities and the veterans, and raise money to support both their own programs and other worthy foundations and charities. The Charter of the Auxiliary of Post 537 dates back to 1954 (with the Legionnaire Charter was created one year earlier – though the post itself has a history that traces back to Hay Creek in 1942, when a group of miners who were veterans began organizing).
Just as with other Auxiliaries, that of Post 537 maintains their own business and goals while also working with and in support of Legion veterans. Along with the Sons of the American Legion, the Legion Riders, Junior Members, and the Legionnaires themselves, they act upon that characteristic which is at the heart of the best kind of community – the willingness to help others.
'We are a big family in this club,' said Megan Mastrangelo, the President of the Auxiliary. 'If something happens we are behind one another. We help members and the families of members. We do whatever we can to assist them.'
Mastrangelo, who first joined the post eleven years ago, was just nominated for her second successive term as President.
'My sister originally had signed me up as she was involved with the Auxiliary… … When I used to bartend here I would hear all of these great stories and listen to the veterans and members reminisce. Respect is a huge thing you learn here. You have active members here who served and tell you their stories, and that creates a respect and appreciation for the things veterans do.'
Roseann Thomas, a current Auxiliary officer and former President of the Auxiliary, applauded Mastrangelo for her hard work.
'She is doing a great job as President. She is wonderful with the agendas, with the emails, with everything she does.'
Thomas said that in order to get nominated for President, a person must truly display leadership quality, and then they have to work hard to earn Presidency.
'They really do pick people who do a good job,' she said, 'and they got it right with Megan.'
'I think what has helped me be successful is my willingness to commit,' said Mastrangelo, 'It takes that commitment and that means time. When I am done my day job I do this.'
Thomas also credited Mastrangelo as being part of a new generation of members who are positively affecting the community more so than any of their predecessors.
'Today's Auxiliary is a very active group. They have done more fundraising than past groups. I see them working together… …they are more together socially. And believe me - they do not tolerate any tomfoolery!' Thomas said.
'We have a great array of members,' said Mastrangelo, 'we meet the second Wednesday of every month and talk about the past, present, and future. We usually have about 20 members at our monthly meeting (and have) about 100 total members. Since the beginning of the year we've added about one new member each month.'
Additional members are welcome, and anyone who interested joining need only reach out to the Auxiliary by showing up to one of their meetings at the post and requesting an application.
Membership in the Auxiliary is offered to anyone over the age of 18 who is an immediate family member of an American Legion member or a deceased veteran who served in any of the following: WWI, WWII , Merchant Marines (from 12/7/41-12/31/46), Korea, Vietnam , Lebanon/Grenada ( from 8/24/82-7/31/84), Panama (from 12/20/89-1/31/90), Gulf War/War on Terrorism (beginning 8/2/90 until present).
'There are many benefits to joining the Auxiliary,' explained Mastrangelo, 'there are club activities like the billiards club and bingo at the club bar. We also go out for activities, such as snow tubing, and are planning trips to Reading Phillies games. You also have access to other things may surprise people - health insurance, life insurance, credit card, auto insurance, cell phone discounts, and a lot more.'
Even kids can join the American Legion, as the organization has junior memberships – you may remember the junior members as the kids selling the poppies to benefit Wounded Warriors on Memorial Day.
The recent surge in membership is a great sign for the whole of Post 537, which had not long ago faced some issues which, among other things, led to the club bar having to close for a time.
'In the last year we were closed because of mismanagement,' said Mastrangelo, 'Now we have all new Home Association officials (the core veteran leadership of the Legionnaires) and they are wonderful, responsible people.'
'We did not have a lot of members often come in before,' Thomas added, 'The new officers have brought better organization and better control to the entire post. They want to devote their time and energy to making the post the best it can be, and it is working.'
The social aspects of any organization are a good barometer of its success, and the American Legion has an enviable ability of crossing generational gaps within its members.
'Here, you see friendships that go across all ages,' said Thomas, 'that is something that everyone wants to do here – treat each other friendly. This is another reason why we older members are so proud of how the younger members have progressed. If you have an organization – it needs to stand for something and do something, and this organization does!'
What it stands for can be best explained by what Mastrangelo had to offer when asked to share her proudest moment as a member of Post 537. Without a moment of hesitation she said:
'On Memorial Day we were out placing flags and markers in the Caernarvon cemetery, and we had our dedication where we remembered the fallen by calling out every single veteran's name at the Caernarvon cemetery in Morgantown. Without a doubt that was my proudest moment, because, if it was not for our veterans where would we be as a country?'
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Upcoming Events: On July 28 members of Post 537 will be participating in the Iron Horse Helpers Poker Run, which will benefit Lance Corporal Mark Fidler, USMC, and Specialist Ed Gulden, U.S. Army Infantry, who are amputee veterans from the region (find out more email email@example.com).
Col. Jacob Morgan Post 537 will have its First Annual Clam Bake on August 11 from 2-7 p.m. Food will include clams and chicken. The event is being held at the Post's recently renovated pavilion (which the post paid $3,000 to have properly outfitted with an electrical system which includes lights and outlets for powering any equipment needed for their events). The Clam Bake will feature live music and is open to the public. This is a great opportunity to come out and meet the members of Post 537. Tickets are available at a cost of $15 each (only 200 are available), and the money raised will benefit the Home Association of Post 537. Post 537 is located at 4499 North Twin Valley Road, Morgantown, PA, 19543. For information call the post at 610-286-5920.
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