Members of Gadsden VFW Post 2760 celebrate their annual Christmas dinner while providing for families during the holiday season. Katie Bohannon/Messenger.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Christmastime coincides with tradition – garland atop fireplaces decked with stockings, gifts wrapped underneath twinkling evergreens, laughter among families and friends who embrace priceless moments that illustrate the true essence of the season.
One Christmas tradition manifests in generous individuals uplifting their neighbors in 2021, serving their community as they have done countless times before. Each holiday, Gadsden VFW Post 2760 provides for local veterans and families countywide, giving gifts that far surpass any material item – hope and the comfort that someone cares.
For as long as Judy Crane can remember, VFW Post 2760 has supported its community. While its efforts culminate in year-round assistance for veterans, offering weekly meals and frequent donations to the VA clinic, the holiday season is special. As the post’s auxiliary president, Crane considers helping others the VFW’s purpose and strives to fulfill that calling each day. The New Orleans native works closely alongside a collection of committed members – from post commander Shane Grant to her fellow auxiliary board – to organize an annual Christmas dinner for veterans, while adopting families for the holiday. Crane commended the post’s auxiliary, which consists of treasurer Katrina Hubbard, secretary Cindy Cornelius and second vice Sherry McIntyre.
Crane, Grant and the auxiliary correspond with local school systems and the Etowah County Department of Human Resources to discover residents in need of assistance. This year, VFW Post 2760 is funding five to seven families, with members adopting additional families on their own. Each family receives a classic Christmas dinner, complete with turkey and dressing, with presents for their children and additional support for their household, if needed. In previous years, the post provided kitchen appliances for select families, even aiding with paying bills for those struggling to make ends meet.
“It’s our purpose to help other people who are not as fortunate as we are,” said Crane, who joined VFW Post 2760 with her husband, a Vietnam veteran. “At 2760, we’re like family. We have people who have been coming for years and years, who just love the place and help us as much as they can. We don’t really advertise that much what we do, but we’re thankful for all of our veterans, auxiliary and those who work very hard to help. We try to work together to make [the post and community] better.”
Serving families and fellow veterans mirrors a sense of duty post commander Grant honored for 24 years in the military. A retired Master Sergeant in the 20th Special Forces Group, Grant’s father, also a veteran, inspired him to follow in his footsteps and dedicate himself to a greater purpose. Decades devoted to his country enlightened his eyes and broadened his perspective concerning the different circumstances and challenges individuals face, as he experienced firsthand the lack and poverty some families endure.
“You want to make a difference, serve your country,” said Grant, reflecting on time spent in Columbia, where he witnessed a child with no material possessions, who yet still maintained a joyful nature. “You think you’ve got it rough here? You go to a third world country and you see what rough is.”
“I have been without in the field. I’ve slept in the rain; I’ve not eaten for days because of the operation we were on. I know how it is. If somebody cooks for me, I don’t care if it’s burnt toast, it’s great because somebody took the time to prepare it for me. When you’ve lived it and around it, [life] is put into perspective. It really shows you what’s important.”
Grant noted that serving his community provides he and other veterans with a purpose, an avenue of furthering their assistance as they transition into civilian life. While VFW Post 2760 partners with numerous local programs throughout the year, he and Crane hope to offer greater opportunities for the community through the VFW, transforming the gathering place into a family-oriented resource for Etowah County.
Grant understands that the greatest gifts in life are not measured monetarily, a virtue he shares with his mother, Glenell, who recently joined the VFW with Grant’s father, Connie. As both a military wife and mother, whose husband and two sons were deployed all at once, Glenell treasures each second with her family, never taking any moment for granted. Simple instances most would not consider Glenell cherished as precious and irreplaceable, remembering calls from her husband or sons where the pair sat in silence, neither saying a word, just comforted in the knowledge that the other person was there.
“It’s just wonderful,” said Glenell, expressing her gratitude on having her family together and home again. “We embrace every day together, because you’re not promised tomorrow. We get together every holiday, it doesn’t matter what it is. We may not see each other every day, we may not talk to each other every day, but we do know that if one of us needs the other one, there would be no questions asked. You just pick up the phone and say, ‘I need,’ or ‘I want,’ and it’s done.”
Glenell shared that while she served as a Secret Santa for years, this opportunity to help at the VFW reiterates her resolute belief in extending generosity and benevolence whenever possible. Glenell’s grandchildren even participate in shopping and wrapping presents for others, learning to emphasize what truly remains important in life, and discovering the joy that abounds in giving outshines receiving.
“We are so blessed,” said Glenell. “God has been really good to us and blessed us in so many ways. We like to share our blessings. [We want to show our veterans and community] they are loved and thought about. They are not forgotten. Any one of us is only a step away if they need anything.”
“It’s about serving – your community, your state and country,” said Grant, encouraging veterans to join VFW Post 2760 and continue their legacies of dedication in new ways. “Let’s make a difference together. If you want to help, come and we’ll help each other and our community – we’ll be a positive influence.”