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Sonoma veterans send holiday cheer to Yountville Veterans Home

The holiday season inspires dozens of toy drives for Sonoma County’s disenfranchised youth, but adults in need can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Last week, the local chapter of AMVETS set its sights on making the holidays merrier for the men and women who served their country in the military.

“Our mission is to serve those who served,” said Terry Leen, spokesman for the local chapter.

On a recent rainy night, about a dozen volunteers gathered to stuff dozens of boxes with fuzzy bathrobes, puzzle books, cozy socks and other gifts headed for the Yountville Veterans Home. Around 800 aged and disabled veterans live at the facility, making it the largest veterans home in the country.

“They give us direction as to what the needs are,” Leen said. “There’s a big need for new clothes.”

The charitable effort is made possible by donations from AMVETS and the Native Sons of the Golden West, which culminated in a $1,000 shopping spree at Kohl’s department store. In total, Valley veterans delivered more than 50 gifts to the staff in Yountville.

The local chapter of AMVETS began three years ago with 10 members. Unlike many military service groups, it is open to any veteran from any branch of service. It now has 35 members and is busy establishing its local missions. In addition to assisting with Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, the group also oversees “Operation From Home With Love,” which regularly sends packages of toiletries, treats and trinkets to active duty military stationed overseas.

“There are military bases all over the world, and not all have access to a PX,” Leen said, referring to the small stores that provide creature comforts on military bases. “We try to make sure they’re taken care of.”

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