For more than 50 years, the American Legion Auxiliary Gift Shop has been hosted at the Olin E. Teague Veterans Medical Center in Temple.
The one-week shop serves any veteran residing at the VA who needs assistance for Christmas. The veterans are allowed to choose gifts for themselves and their immediate family.
The concept of the gift shop for hospitalized veterans got its start in 1928, and continued that mission during the week of Dec. 4.
On Dec. 5, auxiliary volunteers assisted the veterans in shopping. They gift wrapped selections and packaged them for mailing.
There is no charge for the gifts, wrapping or mailing. All the items in the gift shop are donated or purchased by the auxiliary.
Nina Seifert of the American Legion Auxiliary in Lexington said their mission is to honor veterans, past present and future. She has been participating in the gift shop for about 12 years
“We do what we can and it means a lot to be able to provide this service,” Seifert said.
About 150 veterans were able to participate in the Temple VA gift shop.
The mood was definitely in keeping with the holiday. Christmas carols played over the sound system and platters of cookies were set out for the veterans to sample.
The selection of gifts was large and varied. There were plenty of toys, ranging from stuffed toys, board games and action figures. There were watches for men and women, necklaces and wallets.
A shelf full of fleece throws would be packaged up and taken to residents in the Community Living Center.
Marian Pierson of the Georgetown auxiliary accompanied Jonathan McDonald, a resident of the Temple VA domiciliary, around the tables piled high with gift items.
The gift shop was set up in the recreation room of the Temple VA domiciliary.
McDonald was selecting gifts for his three sons. After looking over a toy Spider-Man and a toy car, he began to consider some sports balls.
“This really helps us out since we don’t have the funds to buy our family gifts,” he said.
McDonald’s sons are in Austin so he’ll be able to see them on Christmas.
McDonald served in the U.S. Coast Guard and has been in the domiciliary for three months. He has advanced to a work program.
For a number of years Pierson and other auxiliary members from Georgetown would come to Temple on Monday and help set up the gift shop and then head home. This year, she stayed an extra day to help out.
“I’m enjoying it,” Pierson said.
Pierson said her gift-wrapping abilities are wanting — in fact her 11-year-old daughter took over the gift wrapping duties in the family more than 40 years ago.
“I like shopping with the people, that’s really fun,” she said.
Her plan is to share that information with the Georgetown auxiliary members and to get more to participate next year.
The auxiliary is all about helping veterans and their families, Pierson said, and the gift shop event is a definite benefit.
Adele Posey worked at the Temple VA for 36 years and is a member of the Holland American Legion Auxiliary.
When she retired she began volunteering at the gift shop and as soon as her husband, David, retired she made sure he was at the gift shop, too.
Posey has been helping the veterans shop for years.
“I like watching them get excited about selecting gifts for their families,” she said. “This gives them an opportunity to think about something other than the circumstances that resulted in them being at the domiciliary.”