by Cori Hilsgen
Elaine Eisenschenk, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 328 in St. Joseph, received the Unit Member of the Year award from the state Department of Minnesota American Legion Auxiliary.
Eisenschenk received the award after being nominated for her volunteer service at St. Cloud VA Health Care System and collecting almost $7,000 in donations for the unit’s Poppy Fund, funds which can only be used for veterans.
As the “Poppy Lady,” Eisenschenk volunteered 95 hours on the poppy donation program.
The award was based on what the auxiliary member has done in the past year, March 31, 2018-April 1, 2019.
With 432 units in the State of Minnesota and almost 8,000 members, this was quite an honor for Eisenchenk. Auxiliary President Rosie Court accepted the award for Eisenschenk, who was in Germany at the time, at the August department convention in Willmar.
The award was submitted by Court and signed by Auxiliary Secretary Ann Reischel, based on the Membership Community Service Hours submitted to Court for the annual reports. These reports are required by all units and were due April 15, 2019, for the 2018-2019 year, to the Auxiliary Department where they are judged and awarded to the Unit Member of the Year.
Eisenschenk said she was “honored and surprised” when she received the award.
Because of the award, Eisenschenk received $800 from the Auxiliary Department of Minnesota to attend the August 23-29, 2019, National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. At the convention, Eisenschenk and the other 50 state members of the year were invited to a breakfast and a special luncheon in their honor where they were awarded a special plaque, a single rose and recognition.
Court attended the National Convention with Eisenschenk. At the National Convention, members from all levels of the organization, Legion, auxiliary and Sons of American Legion conduct business meetings and learn about mission opportunities. The event also includes a Memorial Service, Commanders Dinner and a patriotic parade.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, were guest speakers at the convention. Court said second lady Karen Pence was invited to attend to be awarded the prestigious American Legion Auxiliary Spirit Award, “due to her being an outstanding individual who has had a positive impact, inspiring others to action for her focus on sacrifices made by veterans, service members and their families across the country.”
Pence spoke about the “Legion Act” signed into law on July 30. This legislation changes eligibility dates for veterans to join the American Legion. Under the new law, any honorably discharged veteran who has served since Dec. 7, 1941, may join the American Legion, meaning military veterans who served in what were previously considered periods of peacetime between wars are now eligible for membership. The Legion Act honors thousands of veterans who were wounded or killed on duty and allows six million veterans who were not able to join the American Legion due to gaps in military conflict eras to access American Legion programs and benefits
Pence also spoke about a program replacing the Veterans Choice Program that expands private health -options for veterans.
Court said she and Eisenschenk were both “honored to carry our American Flag for Minnesota along with the other 49 states in the outdoor parade.”
“This truly is a special recognition for a member (who) has done so much for our veterans, those still deployed and on active duty and their families,” she said. “Elaine truly deserved the award and I was proud and honored to accompany her to the convention where she received many congratulations from Minnesota members and out-of-state members.”
The auxiliary unit also received two President’s Awards of Excellence at the July Department Convention in Willmar. The awards recognized what the unit accomplished for 2018-19. This included its Leadership and the National Security Program (support of its POW/MIA Programs), April Military Child Month recognition and support, Gold Star Mothers Recognition, hosting an American Cross Bloodmobile, supporting and volunteering at the Old Glory Run, Becky’s Troop Care Packages, Eagles Healing Nest, Memorial Day and Veterans Day Programs and Children and Youth Programs.
These two awards were the only two given out for those categories for the 432 units in Minnesota.
The unit also received seven Certificates of Merit for National Security, Legislation, Memorial, Leadership, Children and Youth, Junior Activities and History.
Eisenschenk and her husband, Lee, have four children and nine grandchildren. They have lived in St. Joseph for 52 years. Lee served in Vietnam in the U.S. Army from 1964-1966 as a heavy equipment operator. He has been in the American Legion Honor Guard for 44 years.
Although Eisenschenk has only been a member of the Auxiliary for four years, Court said because of her positive attitude, dedication and commitment as a member, she has exemplified the American Legion Auxiliary’s motto of Service Not Self and mission to support the American Legion and honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military and their families, both at home and abroad.
Sixth District Auxiliary President Roberta Alvecrog recently appointed Eisenschenk as chairman of the Auxiliary Emergency Fund for the Sixth District for 2019-20.
The American Legion Auxiliary Unit of St. Joseph was chartered on July 1922 with 20 members signing the application for charter. The unit currently has 98 members.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.