This year, as every year since 1930, the Bismarck American Legion is asking the community to “Open Your Heart” by contributing to families in need at Christmas.
Back in December 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, members of the Lloyd Spetz Post No. 1 of the American Legion announced that it was asking for everyone to “help a little.”
The Legion appealed for the community’s attention to “children in the city and county (whose) little hands get blue from the cold ... little tummies which may be shrunken because the family larder is none too full — homes where a mother and babies shiver a bit because the coal pile isn’t what it might be.”
Eighty-three years later, the Legion continues to appeal each year to the community to help those in need at the holidays.
According to project chairman Bob Wefald, the Legion this year will help 241 families. Last year’s number was unusually high, at 371; Wefald speculated that it might have been due to the 2011 flooding in the community.
All who applied were considered by the Investigating Committee this year, he said. The committee representatives are from public and private social service agencies.
“The only letters we write every year are to last year’s recipients,” Wefald said in a statement. “We ask them if they need help again this year. We never write letters to past contributors asking for money. We simply rely on people who want to give to give as much as they want to give.”
Receipts for tax purposes are sent to those who contribute $250 or more, he said.
The activity schedule for this year — all events take place in the Bismarck Civic Center Exhibit Hall, with access through the southeast doors:
- Thursday — Tote boxes full of donated food are picked up from the Bismarck Public Schools, Kirkwood Mall and the Legion office and Super Valu Warehouse will deliver purchased food to the Exhibit Hall.
- Friday — Starting at 8 a.m., approximately 100 volunteers sort and stack the food, with the help of school groups. Sorting and stacking should be complete by 10 a.m.
- Friday — At noon, volunteers label the boxes for families. At 6:30 p.m., in the main part of the Exhibit Hall, tables are set up, each with a particular food item. Members of motorcycle clubs fill tote boxes with staples and volunteers take food baskets for each family. At 7 p.m., the volunteers move around the tables and food items are placed in the baskets based on the number of members in each family. After that is complete, by about 8:30 p.m., Boy Scouts and others take down the tables and sweep up.
- Saturday — Starting at 7 a.m., Dan’s Supermarkets, Dean’s Foods and Garske Produce deliver turkeys, chickens, bread, milk and cole slaw, and volunteers help load vehicles. At 7:30 a.m., volunteers drive their vehicles into the Exhibit Hall while other volunteers load them with food. After the drivers deliver the food baskets, any undeliverable baskets are returned to the Exhibit Hall. Some last-minute families will get the undeliverable baskets, with the rest being delivered to the Salvation Army.
By 10 a.m., the work “is basically done and we should be planning our 84th Open Your Heart campaign for December 2013,” Wefald said.