BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Saturday found men from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10174 sitting down to a breakfast of champions. And it was all provided by the local chapter of the Ladies Auxiliary.
The VFW, located at 1780 49th St. S., filled up quickly as men, along with their guests and the Ladies Auxiliary who planned the whole shindig, dug into a pre-father’s day breakfast with all the fixings of a home cooked meal.
“Everyone chose what they wanted to bring,” said Mattie Adams, president of the Ladies Auxiliary Post 10174, as she recalled the excitement building up to the event. She listed off the contributions of the ladies involved from eggs and bacon, to hash browns and biscuits. “We were gonna get some pork chops, but it was expensive.”
The Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW is an organization established nationally in 1914. Their charge being to serve the veterans of this country who have served in uniform and sacrificed by serving overseas in some capacity. The founders of the organization in the past have placed most of its resources into assisting veterans returning from battle to assimilate back into civilian life. Today, the Ladies Auxiliary also finds ways to give back to the men and women by helping them reestablish and maintain connections with their families and communities.
The VFW Post 10174 has been around a long time too. It was the first post chartered in south St. Petersburg and was soon renamed The Charlie King Tutson VFW in honor of local legend Charlie “King Tut” Tutson, who served in the U.S. Army.
After retiring as a maintenance worker at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines, he became a janitor at Jordan Elementary School. Tutson spent the majority of his life working with black youths and successfully leading them through the Boy Scouts program. Although he passed in 1983, Tutson will always be remembered for his decades of dedication with the Boys Scouts and Troop 234, one of the oldest black troops in the community.
Adams admits that when the two organizations get together on holidays and at various gatherings throughout the year, the men usually participate in the planning and contribute by cooking on the grill, while the ladies bring the veggies. But this time Adams and the Ladies Auxiliary wanted to give the men a break and honor them not only for their contributions to the country, but also as men, brothers and fathers.
As the morning continued, a short prayer blessing their union was underway and the camaraderie between both organizations became evident as the ladies led off with the song “This Little Light of Mine.”
The VFW and the Ladies Auxiliary meet on the third Sunday of each month at precisely 6:30 p.m. without fail. Men and women of District 9, which Adams explained makes up veterans from St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo and even Tampa, join together to discuss upcoming events and how they plan to pay for it all.
“We’re getting ready now to do baskets,” said Adams who is happy to have storage at the post where they can organize and keep the baskets for long periods of time. Especially since the baskets won’t be given out until Christmas. “We start early; everybody thinks we’re crazy doing it this early.”
The Ladies Auxiliary also provides assistance to the elderly every other month, visiting their homes, performing simple cleaning tasks like laundry and finding time to drop into local nursing homes. The ladies also put on an Easter egg hunt each year that attracts close to 100 kids.
“We ran out of food,” Adams said remembering how they had to go shopping during the event last year to purchase more hotdogs and hamburgers. “We had sack races too, it was nice.”
Adams who is only the second African American to preside as district president of the Ladies Auxiliary and is proud of the rapport her organization has with the all men VFW group. As if to cement the notion in stone, a gentleman from the VFW openly and quite boisterously announced to the room his admiration and appreciation to the ladies putting on the breakfast.
The morning continued with small gift giveaways consisting of flashlights, gloves, and other trinkets for the men to enjoy. “There are a lot of things here for them to make them feel good,” Adams said.
To show your support for the VFW, check out their national website at vfw.org. If you’re female and wishing to become a part of the Ladies Auxiliary, you can check out the national website at ladiesauxvfw.org. Keep in mind members must have had a close relative such as a husband, brother, or grandparent who served overseas in order to join.