Enhanced buddy checks: veterans helping those in need during COVID-19

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As communities across Minnesota prepare to shelter at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, veterans who are part of the American Legion are making sure members and their families have supplies at homes.

Legion Posts across the state and country are now using the “enhanced buddy check” program to call or connect on social media to members in need.

The idea was fueled in part by a Two Harbors Army veteran from the North Shore.

“I thought maybe we need to enhance them a bit, not just call and say, 'How you doing,'” said Jennifer Havlick, member of American Legion Post 109. “But call and ask, 'Do you need anything … are you short on anything, pick-up prescriptions, or taking the trash cans to curb?'"

The American Legion shared Havlick’s idea on social media to take their traditional buddy check program which involves morale calls a few times a year to now offer assistance to shop, run errands or provide services for those in need that may be quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It's a time when the buddy check program is crucial to make sure some of these people who are shut-ins are taken care of,” said Tim Engstrom, with the American Legion Department of Minnesota in St. Paul. "If we can't do it ourselves we'll find somebody who can, it's a take care of everyone no matter what approach."

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The American Legion is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, which was charted by Congress in 1919.

“I think a lot of people are unsettled — not only as a nation but as a world," said Christie Knobeck, Lakeville Post 44 Commander. "Sometimes you just need that encouragement that someone's got your back."

Knobeck said members have been busy calling or reaching out to others on social media to see if their Dakota County members, including World War II veterans, are in need of assistance.

Havlick feels the American Legion is like a family that is always there to help one another.

"If we can, stay in contact with each other,” Havlick said. “We understand each other like no other people do."