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Cortina Barnes on Monday joked she was uncertain her hunger could wait for brunch.
The cheery Barnes, national president of the Ladies Auxiliary for Veterans of Foreign Wars, spent her morning at VFW Post 10281 in Vine Grove, addressing the post’s ladies auxiliary over an ample feast.
Barnes was touring various auxiliaries in Kentucky as part of a year-long tour of the 51 departments under her watch. Barnes told the modest crowd assembled that this was approximately her 40th department tour since taking over as national president.
Prior to the meal, Barnes said she makes the tours to inspire and thank local auxiliaries for their hands-on work in promoting and advancing the Ladies Auxiliary as a whole.
The organization, which has been serving veterans for nearly 100 years, is comprised of female family members of VFW-eligible veterans and provides the gamut in veterans services, Barnes said. The Military Assistance Program provides care packages and support for deployed troops while the Unmet Needs and Emergency Financial Assistance programs offers grants to soldiers and their families for one-time needs, such as car trouble or other mounting bills.
The Ladies Auxiliary also volunteers at hospitals and Veterans Administration Medical Centers, offers scholarships and donates money for charities and cancer research, Barnes added.
Once addressing the crowd, Barnes immediately thanked the VFW Post 10281 and the Kentucky department for its hard work and stellar membership successes.
She also encouraged an environment built on unity, where ladies of the auxiliaries can work together toward a common goal despite their differences.
“We don’t always get along, but we’re family,” she said.
She also touted similarities existing between all departments — a love for military, veterans and patriotism.
During her visit, Barnes also presented past and current presidents of the 10281 Ladies Auxiliary and post commanders with commemorative coins celebrating the Oct. 28 birth date of the Statue of Liberty.
Barnes said the VFW Ladies Auxiliary is the only organization in America that consistently holds a program in tribute of the birthday, celebrating its 124th birthday last year. It was the 74th year in which the organization held the ceremony, she added.
This year marks the 125th birthday and 75th year of the ceremony, and Barnes encouraged all in attendance to make their way to New York City for a special “blowout.”
Barnes said the coins are drafted each year and only disbursed during the ceremony, though she saves a few extras for “special people.”
Barnes also asked auxiliary members to consider giving a donation to the renovation of restrooms in the guest lodge at the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids, Mich.
The lodge was built and is maintained by the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and Barnes said they built it to last. Unfortunately, when it was constructed, piping for the restrooms was placed behind brick, mortar and concrete, she said. Now failing, the Ladies Auxiliary recognized the need for repairs but did not want to siphon money away from programs and services.
In response, Barnes said she decided to shoulder the work as her pet project and has been calling on auxiliaries around the U.S. to help them make the repairs before it leads to a major health hazard.
Her request has found willing participants, with more than $100,000 of the projected $150,000 cost for repairs collected.
“If you don’t think a dollar helps, yes, it does,” she said.
But Barnes said they’ll gladly take more off of a donor’s hands.
“If you have a spare $10,000, you might want to send it,” she said with a booming laugh.
Barnes planned to visit some Kentucky sites before leaving the state, with a trip to the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville planned for Monday afternoon.
Debbie Ferrell, secretary and past president of VFW Post 10281 Ladies Auxiliary, said she found motivation from Barnes’ words.
“She is so extremely inspiring,” Ferrell said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.