It all started with a group of women meeting on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 16, 1919. The small, determined circle met at the home of Lewis Merrill to form an auxiliary to accompany the recently organized Hutchinson American Legion Post 96.
“In 1919, when the men had their’s and stuff, and women were allowed to vote for the first time,” said local auxiliary historian Jeanne Ray. “You know 100 years ago, when there wasn’t any communication like that, they founded the auxiliary because the men founded their Legion Post. ... Because the men needed help.”
According to Ray, the auxiliary originally started as Unit 10 but was later changed to Unit 96.
“I can’t find records on it, but they decided to give the women the same number as the Post,” she said. “So we ended up with 96, but when they did the book work we were on 10.”
During the auxiliary’s first meeting after its formation, Ruth Putney was elected as chairman of the organization and Genevieve Merrill was elected to the secretary position. From there they set out to recruit members into its ranks.
According to a document provided by Ray, by March 1920 there were 109 members on the roll, and the charter, constitution and operating rules were soon laid down later in the month.
“One being that newly elected members be given 30 days in which to pay their (membership) dues,” according to the historical report. “This is to apply to old members as well, that 10 days notice be given for all regular meetings of the auxiliary, and three days notice be given for all regular meetings of the executive board.”
Throughout the years, the auxiliary has held its meetings in various rooms and buildings throughout Hutchinson, such as the basement of the Methodist Church and City Hall. The group has also held various fundraisers and philanthropy events during the early 1920s all the way to present day. Money has been raised to provide clothes and food to local hospitals, as well as financial aid to families of former service members.
Today, the auxiliary’s membership has grown to about 240 members. Its mission to serve veterans remains the same. According to the auxiliary’s 2018-19 annual report, it donated 3,178.75 hours of volunteer service supporting veterans, and this year the it will be presenting 18 handmade quilts called “Quilts of Valor” to veterans at the Harmony River Living Center.
“They’re valued at $800 a piece,” Ray said. “They did 46 of them during the year.”
From the current members, 49 are what’s known as “Service to Veterans” volunteers.
“They pick up groceries, and they help with the driving and taking them to medical appointments,” Ray said.
A testament to all auxiliary members’ service came in the form of an award from the state of Minnesota proclaiming Sunday, Nov. 10, as the Auxiliary Centennial Day of Service.
“That was for service to veterans,” Ray said.