By Ardeana Hamlin
Of The Weekly Staff
HAMPDEN — Whitcomb-Baker VFW Post Auxiliary is seeking new members to join its organization, which has a long and rich history of service to veterans, their families and the community both locally and nationally.
The national level of the Auxiliary was formed in 1903 as the Auxiliary to the American Veterans of Foreign Service. That name was changed to the Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1914 at the advent of World War I. Auxiliary national headquarters is in Kansas City, Mo.
The Auxiliary in Hampden was formed in February 1946, less than a year after the end of World War II. At that time, 43 women signed the charter. Officers elected were Edna Carleton, president; Ethel Wheeler, senior vice president; Alice Frazier, junior vice president; Vernett Baldwin, secretary; Frances Sandford, treasurer; Eleanor Greeley, chaplain; Beatrice Bruce, conductress; Honora Baker, guard; and Grace Morgan, Jessie Giles and Pauline Briggs, trustees. The group’s purpose is to support and assist the Whicomb-Baker VFW Post 4633 in its programs and activities.
Frances Bowen, Grace Morgan’s daughter, has been a member of the Auxiliary since 1972. Bowen is the organization’s treasurer, an office she has held for 30 years.
“If we don’t get new members, we will dwindle away,” Bowens said. The average age of current members is at least 70, she said. “We’re young at heart.”
Bowen said the Hampden VFW Auxiliary’s Cancer Aid and Research Program was established after the great forest fire swept through Mount Desert Island in 1947, destroying much property, including Jackson Laboratory facilities. The Auxiliary national president asked that Auxiliaries throughout the nation aid the laboratory in order to restore its ability to continue its work in cancer research. The Hampen VFW Auxiliary was the first to respond to the call, and it continues to raise funds in support of Jackson Laboratory.
Auxiliary members promote Americanism through donations of flags, volunteer at veteran’s homes and medical centers and in the community, advocate for veterans on Capitol Hill, give financial support to veterans and their families, and sponsor several scholarships.
Alice Cote is the Hampden VFW Auxiliary president, her fourth time serving in that office. She has been a member since 1985. “My dad was a veteran, at Pearl Harbor,” she said. “I love doing things for the community. I love volunteering at the [Maine] Veterans Home in Bangor and helping with bingo games.”
Besides volunteering at the Maine Veterans Home and the Hampden Food Cupboard, the Auxiliary hosts a food booth at Hampden’ Children Day each year, takes part in the town’s Memorial Day parade, organizes a Christmas dinner and party for Hampden’s Senior Citizens, and is involved in the effort that provided the flags that fly along Hampden’s Main Street and Western Avenue. The Auxiliary also was involved in raising funds to erect the Veteran’s Memorial in front of the Hampden Town Office on Western Avenue.
The Auxiliary is in the process of collecting recipes for a cookbook that will be available for purchase in the spring. It also will hold a food sale 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at Marden’s in Bangor.
The Whitcomb-Baker VFW Post Auxiliary meets at 1 p.m. the third Sunday of each month at the VFW Post home on Canoe Club Road in Hampden. For information about joining the Auxiliary, call Frances Bowen at 942-4100.