The American Legion Auxiliary has been influencing the lives of veterans, the military, and their families for more than a century, while adapting to new leadership, changes to bylaws, and new surges of communication. The ALA has positively adjusted to these new ways of interacting by creating electronic units, otherwise known across the organization as eUnits.
These unique units allow members to support the ALA’s mission while also managing their own daily lives. eUnits ease the burden of wanting to make a difference, but not being able to. If ALA members can’t attend physical meetings due to health reasons or transportation issues, or if they have small children, joining an eUnit is very beneficial because these members don’t have to leave the comfort of their own home, and they still have input on planning mission activities.
eUnits first launched when volunteers from California ALA Girls State became interested in the work of other ALA programs. Some of these volunteers weren’t Auxiliary members yet, and they wanted to join a unit as a group.
“Joining one physical unit as a group wasn’t possible, given that each woman lived in a different locale,” said Lou Thompson, a charter member of California’s George Tadlock eUnit 472. “The eUnit concept was developed to meet the needs of this group. Over time, the concept was adopted in other states to accommodate this solution for distance vs. interest.”
How do eUnit members meet?
Meetings are conducted in eUnits much like they are in traditional Auxiliary unit settings. The only difference is the location. eUnits use technology to conduct meetings online. Members communicate through FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, email, conference calls, online chat rooms, or other e-meeting software. Their meetings are held the same as a physical units’ meetings, with an orderly agenda format.
eUnit members can reside in any city, state, or country as long as they meet the Auxiliary’s membership eligibility requirements and follow the rules and regulations.
What do eUnits do?
According to Thompson, “eUnits accomplish the same goal as physical units do, and they adapt when necessary.”
eUnits can be very flexible when it comes to ALA program activities and projects. Another benefit of these unique units is that mission-oriented projects can be fulfilled individually or as a group. Although eUnit members may be separated geographically, there are many different ways to complete a project as a unit.
“For example, fundraising through a physical spaghetti dinner wouldn’t be possible, but a non-event fundraiser would be,” said Thompson. “Use the Internet to help find great ideas like tea parties, galas, and more. Send invitations to members and friends asking for a donation not to attend the event and save on costs like a new outfit, babysitting, and travel expenses. Search for ‘non-event fundraiser.’”
An eUnit project can be as creative as the unit would like, offering a wide range of options. Bea Brunner, also a member of California eUnit 472, suggests donating books to a designated disadvantaged school as a unit, or individually distribute poppies and send the collected contributions to the unit’s treasurer. The possibilities are endless.
The membership side of eUnits
Very similar to their physical ALA unit counterparts, eUnits abide by the same rules and regulations, and they have officers, program chairs, financial responsibilities, end-of-year reporting, and supplementals, etc.
eUnit members learn the skills and interests of their members and allow them to utilize those specific skillsets to enhance the eUnit and achieve the ALA mission. For example, a member who is good with numbers can handle donation money. If a member likes to plan events, that person can organize the next mission-oriented project. Everyone has something to bring to the table.
“It is kind of enticing to join an all-electronic unit and be in one of just the few that exist,” said Brunner.
Get the technicals – for more information about eUnits, and how to start one, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org/start-a-new-unit.
The American Legion Auxiliary currently has 11 eUnits:
- Little Rock, Ark.
- East Palo Alto, Calif.
- Tallahassee, Fla.
- Keystone Heights, Fla.
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Indianapolis, Ind.
- Rose Hill, Kan.
- St. Louis, Mo.
- Harrisburg, Pa.
- Clarksville, Va.
- Cassville, Wisc.
This article was originally published in the May 2020 Auxiliary magazine.