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VFW Ladies Auxiliary is top cancer research fundraiser

Cindy Arndt, president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 Ladies Auxiliary, shows off the awards the auxiliary has received for being a top fundraiser for cancer research. The group does several activities throughout the year to raise money that helps fight cancer as well as offer aid to patients. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

Cindy Arndt, president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 Ladies Auxiliary, shows off the awards the auxiliary has received for being a top fundraiser for cancer research. The group does several activities throughout the year to raise money that helps fight cancer as well as offer aid to patients. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

LAKE CITY — Call it a battle between Clayton and Cobb counties for cancer fund-raising supremacy.

The Lake City-based Ladies Auxiliary for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 has raised more money for cancer research than 53 other auxiliaries in Georgia for the last two years, said the group’s president, Cindy Arndt. However, the ladies auxiliary for Marietta-based Post 2681 has decided to challenge that fund-raising supremacy this year, she added.

And with that, the line has been drawn in the sand and the VFW Post 5080 Ladies Auxiliary needs as much as it can get from Clayton County residents.

“We’re working really hard to raise a lot of money this year, so it’s nice that we have someone challenging us,” said Arndt.

Although October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are many more forms of cancer that are recognized throughout the year.

Cancers affecting the lungs and pancreas are highlighted in November. Colo-rectal cancer is recognized in March, while awareness about testicular and head and neck cancers is promoted in April. May is a time when awareness of skin, brain and blood cancers is raised. Leukemia, lymphoma, ovarian and prostate cancers get recognition in September. Cervical cancer is highlighted in January.

There is a fight to cure each of those cancers, and the national VFW Ladies Auxiliary organization has pledged to fight each of them, as well as all of the other cancers that are not as well known or highlighted with a special month.

“Every penny that’s raised is going out [to grants and research],” said Arndt. “It’s not paying somebody’s salary to keep up with this. The people who get paid to do these things — that’s just part of their job and it comes from other funds from the VFW.”

For 66 years, ladies auxiliaries across the nation have raised money to help fight cancer research through their national Cancer Aid and Research program.

The program has two goals. One is to raise money to give $550 aid grants to auxiliary members who have been diagnosed with any form of cancer. The other goal is to raise money to help pay for research that could someday lead to a cure for cancer.

The annual goal is to raise $3 million for aid grants and research, according to a fact sheet the national Ladies Auxiliary put out about the program. More than $100 million has been raised nationally since 1947 for cancer research and aid grants.

In Georgia, the highest fund-raising auxiliary is named at the state conference in June, which is the end of their fiscal year.

The Post 5080 auxiliary raised about $6,000 last year, said state Ladies Auxiliary President Kim West. The Lake City group’s total was about one-sixth of the money raised statewide in fiscal year 2013.

They’ve raised the money through selling popcorn and dill pickles during the post’s BINGO nights, and by hosting a breakfast fundraiser once a month. Arndt said the group raises about $250 per month from selling the popcorn and pickles alone.

Their goal is to raise at least $5,000 this year by the state’s March 31 deadline.

“What we are required to do is send in $2 per member,” said Arndt. “Our little post does a whole lot, though. We, last year, sent in $7 per member.”

For Arndt, the effort is about more than winning awards for being the top fund-raising group. It’s about honoring her mother, Zela Shomaker, who died in 1988 from a rare form of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.

She received two cancer aid grants from Ladies Auxiliary before she died.

“It comes from my heart, especially know it’s going to help somebody in need,” said Arndt.

Clayton County residents can help the Post 5080 auxiliary raise money for cancer research by buying some of its refreshments at BINGO nights at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday at the post, or by attending the breakfast fundraisers.

The breakfasts, which are open to the general public, are held on the Saturday following the group’s month meetings. That usually means the third Saturday of the month. It costs $6 to attend the breakfasts, which last from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m.

The activities are held at VFW post, 5080 North Lake Drive, in Lake City.

Auxiliaries across Georgia are also selling raffle tickets this month to win a quilt from Cracker Barrel. Tickets are $1 and can be purchased by calling Post 5080 at 404-363-9962 or by calling Arndt at 770-842-1114.

The winning raffle ticket will be drawn Oct. 27.

Regardless of whether the Lake City-based auxiliary retains its crown as the state’s top fund-raising group, or if the Marietta auxiliary steals it, Arndt said it is important to focus on why they were working so hard to raise the money.

“It’s all about the cause, whether we win or they win,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the fight to cure cancer.”