Auxiliary power: New Unit 28 president has military family ties

LONG NECK — As part of the hive, Cindy Phillips considers herself a worker bee.

Earlier this year, the 61-year-old southern Pennsylvania native assumed the reins as president of Auxiliary Unit 28 at Oak Orchard/Riverdale American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro.

Cindy Phillips

She succeeded longtime president Tina Washington, who remains an active Unit 28 member.

“Actually, I was not interested in being president at any point because I am the worker bee. I do the work. I let the running of things to other people. But Tina had been president for five years … and no one was stepping up. So, I said, ‘I’ll do it,’” said Ms. Phillips, who previously held positions of Sergeant-at-Arms and chaplain with Unit 28. “And I am glad I am doing it. Like anything in life, I always find that God is in control and when it’s time, it’s time, if you just know when it’s right. I think it worked out well.”

Upon high school graduation near Mechanicsburg, Pa., she went to work at the Navy Supply Depot.

Ms. Phillips and her husband Dick reside on Long Neck. They moved here from the Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania.

They have a daughter Ashley and a 2-year-old grandson Mason.

Here is Cindy Phillips.

How about the military branches on your family tree?

“The military ties that I have to be eligible to belong to the Auxiliary: my father was in the military, my mother was in the military, my brother was in military and my husband was in the military. My father was in World War II as was my mother. She was not a nurse, she was a WAC — Women’s Army Corps. My brother was in Vietnam, he was in country for 10 years. My husband was in the Honor Guard in Arlington.”

“I remember when my brother was in the service, over in Vietnam, and Sergeant Barry Sadler’s “The Green Berets” … I would listen to that song, and I would think, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I was in high school when he was over there. When I graduated I went to work for the Navy Depot right away.”

“So, I was surrounded by military people a lot and everything, early on. My family has a lot of military in it. It has always been important to me to honor the people that have served this country.”

What was your job at the Navy Depot?

“I was a contract negotiator — until I had my daughter. Then I stayed home.”

Cindy Phillips recently assumed the Unit 28 Auxiliary president’s reins from Tina Washington, who had served as president for five consecutive years.

How long have you been an Auxiliary member?

“I joined 15 years ago. It was this Legion. My husband has belonged to the Legion in Pennsylvania for years. And the interesting thing is, we never went up there. So, we came down here when we retired to stay full-time. Like everybody else says, this is really great. They have bands Friday and Saturday nights. We come over to eat all the time. It wasn’t too long before someone was like, ‘Come to a meeting.’ Little by little we just got more and more involved.”

Military and youth have special places in the Auxiliary’s heart?

“We have parties for the community. We have Easter. They do Blessing of the Animals. We have Santa at Christmas time. We have Truck or Treat, we’ve had that now for the last three years at Halloween. Our children and youth programs they focus on military but it includes the youth in the community also. It’s all open to our local community. We do things with military kids. We go up to Dover and we help with parties that they have.”

“We do our Needy Families at Christmas. For the last couple years, we’ve been focusing on our National Guard. People think, ‘Well, they are in the military and they are getting paid well.’ Well, it’s not necessarily true. A lot of times that they have a spouse that can’t have a job because they are gone a lot. Someone has to be there. They have children. We do things for local people, some community people too, but we try and stress military.”

What are some of Unit 28’s projects?

“We have an emergency fund that helps any of our members if they have any natural disaster or for some reason it’s been really hot, they’ve had their air conditioning on and their electric bill is really high this month and they need help. The Legion itself has that for veterans but the Auxiliary has it specifically for our members.”

“Veterans and Rehabilitation (V&R): We go to the nursing homes and have parties for them at Christmas; we take Santa. We go up to Milford, to the VA Home there. They play bingo and stuff. We donated rocking chairs to them last year. There are all kinds of things.”

“In education, we give four $1,000 scholarships every year to the seniors in the schools in our district. We go to the schools and we volunteer. We help with their book fairs and all those kinds of things. We go to the schools and the Boys & Girls Club.”

Intense “couponing” is one of National Security Committee’s missions?

“They send boxes of coupons overseas. They can be outdated up to I think three months. The PX (Post Exchange) and commissaries put them out and service people use those coupons. It extends their grocery money that much further. Even though it is cheaper at the PX it extends that. They cut coupons here every Tuesday. There is a group of about 12 girls and they actually keep a record of how much value. At the end of the year, the value of what they send is over $100,000 in coupons.”

“National Security sends boxes every month. Right now, we probably have like 18 or 20 boxes. Several years ago, at the height it was between 25 and 30 boxes every month. If you are a member here or even someone in the community you can let the Legion know that you have a loved one in the service. We will send them a box of goodies.”

What fundraisers support Unit 28’s programs and efforts?

“We do catering. When someone wants to have a party here they rent out the hall and that money goes to the Post. But if they want us to cater it, you either have to have us cater it or the Post cater it. They do weddings and birthdays. At Grottos, we’ve done things where they give you a percentage. We’ve done pancake breakfasts at Applebee’s. We do raffles. We’ll make up boxes. Usually one of the committee’s will have a specific raffle.”

Unit 28 assists Post 28 in transportation for veterans?

“Every Monday through Thursday that they take up to Elsmere. Anybody in the area, it doesn’t have to be a Legionnaire to go. Any veteran that has an appointment up there. It doesn’t have to be a member of Post 28. The Auxiliary helps sponsor them from time to time. We will give them money towards gas and things like that.”

Talk about the contribution from Mark’s Meats, a local processor:

“They have been donating venison to us for the last several years. It’s either someone processes it and never picks it up and after a while they donate it, or someone actually kills a deer and says they’d like them to donate it to someone. That goes to the National Guard. And there actually is a guy there who can’t eat meat. And venison is all he can eat. He can’t eat red meat. He can eat venison.”

Camaraderie is the cornerstone of Post 28 and other veteran organizations:

“It is not just a bar. When the bar opens, yes, there are people right there. Those are the lonely people that are widows or widowers and have no one at home. If they were home they would just be sitting there. They come here for the camaraderie, the people that know who they are, where they’ve been and what their life is like.”

“Some of them join just for social things. Some of them join because they come here on Friday and Saturday nights. They never really get involved. But their membership supports us. Then there are those who have a real passion for it and get really involved.”

Your family’s volunteerism extends beyond Unit 28?

“My husband and I now still do a food mission. We deliver food and stuff. We are with Volunteer Delaware. We do a lot of volunteering for them. All the volunteering isn’t done here for the Legion. I truly believe, especially once you are retired that your purpose in life is to give back. That is what you are here for. I believe that you are blessed in life to in turn be a blessing.”

How about leisure time?

“My husband and I, we kayak, we hike. We walk every day. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, we are out there walking. We love going to Cape Henlopen and all of the great places to hike around here. There are all these really great nature places in Delaware.

“Other than that – my time, just me time – I read all of the time. I love to read. And when it’s not hot I love to bake.”

Closing thoughts?

“It’s a great group of girls here. Our focus is our veterans. We have a good time. We want people to know if you are eligible to join, come on out and see us. It’s a great place to have and meet friends and have a good time and to help.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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