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American Legion Tackles Operation Watering Hole and More
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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The announcement that they’d be commencing Operation Watering Hole got the biggest round of applause this past week at the American Legion Hall.

“We need a new bar,” Post Commander Harry Bolton told a packed room at the American Legion’s first-ever fundraiser. “And if you donate a hundred grand, we’ll name it after you!”

Spirits were running red, white and blue as dozens of Wood River Valley residents packed into the Ketchum American Legion Post 115 building in Ketchum Friday night.

Ten student singer with Wood River High School’s Colla Voce sang the “Armed Services Medley,” “God Bless America” and “Wind Beneath My Wings” as those in attendance nibbled on glazed bacon roll-ups  and other hors d’oeuvres while sipping wine and signature “Battle Cry” cocktails.

The American Legion has always sold off land when it needed to make improvements to its lodge at 220 Cottonwood St., Bolton told guests. But it has no land left to sell to pay for bathroom remodels, a kitchen upgrade, wifi and audio-visual technology, lighting upgrades and more.

The lodge is used by numerous organizations, including Laughing Stock Theatre, the Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival, Higher Ground and hockey programs, Bolton added.

“Veteran members can rent it for $200 for graduation parties, weddings, whatever. This space is available to all of us and the community—most of whom cannot afford the Sun Valley Lodge,” he added.

The American Legion had already raised $35,000 by the time auctioneer Larry Flynn took the stage to auction off a Dark Sky dinner for two at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, a 15-day Ski Pass donated by Sun Valley Resort, golf and dinner for four at the Valley Club and other items.

A chance to train like elite special forces with SPEAR Tactical went for $5,500. Ten $100 gift certificates from the Pioneer Saloon went for $150 each. And Flynn auctioned off eight days for two at four- and five-star hotel resorts in Acapulco and Cancun to four different couples for $1,700 each.

In addition to Operation Watering Hole, the American Legion has three other “Operations” going, including Operation Restoration which seeks to provide a new entryway, remodel the kitchen, upgrade lighting and remake bathrooms so they’re ADA compliant, Bolton said.

“We want to complete the first two phases the first year and the rest in two, three four years,” said Bolton. “And yes, the 1960s paneling is going to go away.”

A Wish List indicated that remodeling four bathrooms would cost $12,000 each, lighting upgrades would cost $2,000, a new commercial stove top would cost $2,000 and workstations and laptops for youth to use while their parents are meeting in the hall would cost $1,600.

American Legion representatives are still crunching numbers, said Ed Simon, who co-organized the fundraiser.

“But I know the event exceeded my expectations,” he added.

 

The American Legion’s Ketchum chapter was founded 85 years ago to support local veterans. Speakers provide updates on military situations around the world at monthly dinners. The Legion sends students from the Wood River Valley to Boys and Girls State conferences in Boise to participate in model governments. And the Legion sponsors a baseball team.

American Legion members are actively recruiting veterans throughout the Wood River Valley, including those who served in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, Bolton said.

“We have hundreds of veterans and families who do not know about us,” he added.

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