American Legion Post 573

American Legion Post 573 in Harker Heights donated money to Operation Once in a Lifetime and My Brother’s Keeper. See more photos on page 6.

KILLEEN — American Legion Post 573 donated to two local charities at the Operation Once in a Lifetime center in Killeen on Saturday. The post raised funds during the fourth annual American Legion Riders State Rally in Harker Heights earlier this month, which brought more than 150 riders.

“It was a huge success,” said Sonja Skinner, outgoing post commander. “We are on the right track for doing things for the people that need them. It’s never about self and is all about giving back to the community.”

Operation Once in a Lifetime, a nonprofit that gives financial and moral support to soldiers and their families, received a $2,500 check from the Legion.

“It was surprising that they were able to raise that much money to donate to a charity,” said John Valentine, president of the nonprofit’s Fort Hood Chapter. “Being a military charity, we want to help out all the military organizations that we can, and for them to turn around and give back to us is a surprise for us.”

The organization serves about 180 families daily, providing food, clothing and other items.

“From my experience and 20 years in the Army, I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck,” Valentine said. “We want to make things as easy as we can by helping with a little bit of food and clothes.”

The Legion presented the group with a certificate of appreciation and awarded Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu a citation of meritorious service, which Valentine accepted on his behalf.

Polamalu’s foundation has been a major supporter of Operation Once in a Lifetime, Valentine said.

My Brother’s Keeper, a charity that raises funds to help homeless students in the Killeen Independent School District, was presented a $1,000 check.

“It’s the best feeling in the world to know that all that hard work is going to help people,” Skinner said.

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