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American Legion Post 204 is celebrating 100 years in July

The American Legion Kinne-Engelhart Post 204 in Ellsworth is hosting an event on July 13 to celebrate the National 100th American Legion Anniversary Celebration.

Post 204 members will also be getting ready to celebrate again in just two years when the village of Ellsworth turns 100-years-old.

The celebration will start at 11 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. July 13 at the Legion Hall (139 S. Oak St., in Ellsworth.) There will be raffle prizes, bingo, and a steak dinner, with all the proceeds going toward setting up their party in 2021 to celebrate Ellsworth's centennial as well as the 100-year anniversary of Post 204.

The American Legion in its entirety is an organization made up of former service members or veterans and current military personnel, and its goal is to provide assistance, community outreach and activities to other veterans, current military members or people in the community.

Not only does it provide assistance, but it also gives out scholarships and has programs designed to help legion or military members run for office.

One program that Commander Donna Swenson and Adjutant Randall Campbell cited was the Badger Boys State program.

"We interview each person individually... and we send them to Madison for a week," Swenson said. "Down there they act in a non-partisan government. You can run for office as governor, you can run for office as sheriff. They go right down to the village and town levels."

These young men are picked from high schools across Wisconsin by different posts of the American Legion and they are brought in to learn how to run for office. Many of these individuals later become politicians in their life as well.

Post 204 has done many events as well throughout the community of Ellsworth, but with more activities for youths and less warfare, the American Legion numbers are declining.

Another problem Post 204 has experienced is their attempt to relocate. They wanted to move to a place with one floor to cater to older people (members and community), but when they finally found a good place for it near the former Shopko, the plans fell through.

A motel was proposed to be built in town, funded by local investors in 2016. The Legion got involved because they wanted to have a convention center next to the motel for business.

Campbell took the lead role on this project, but the project fell through because the motel wasn't able to find enough investors.

"It basically fell apart because there wasn't enough investors." Campbell said. "Our building was tied in with that, so when that fell through it fell through for us too."

New building or not, the Legion is hoping to have a successful celebration on July 13, and even more, they are trying to have a successful celebration to help set up funding for the Post's 100-year anniversary in 2021.

Post History

According to the Post website, Post 204 was chartered by "Eldon C. Kinne, Post 204" in 1921. Kinne was a World War I soldier killed in action. George Devine was the first commander (1921-22).

On March 27, 1944, Eldon C. Kinne, Post 204, was rechartered to what it is today, "Kinne-Engelhart, Post 204" named after Virgil Engelhart, who was a World War II sailor; he died when the rescue ship he was on sunk, after his ship had sunk.

Legion members met at the Old Fireman's Opera House, which later burned down. They met at the Moody Baker Building, which is currently Bo Jo's Floral. They also met at the old fire hall and other places as needed.

The current building was originally a horse barn owned by Pierce County, who gave it to the Legion Post.

To learn more about Post 204, visit www.americanlegionpost204.org

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