Photo by Frank Prager
Patricia Yauck holds some of the hand-sewn items the Eight and Forty organization makes for children.
ALTON — During World War I, railroad freight cars transported American troops across the European theater along with their horses. Forty soldiers and eight horses rode in each car.
After the war, the American Legion formed an organization open to veterans whose purpose was charitable and patriotic activities. This organization was christened the Forty and Eight in honor of that railway transportation system.
In 1922, a sister society to the Forty and Eight was formed by the American Legion. Called the Eight and Forty, this group was open to women of the American Legion with the same aims of helping others, especially children. As time passed, the focus of the organization became centered on child welfare. The group now raises money for research and treatment of lung diseases and cystic fibrosis in children.
Patricia Yauck of Alton has been a member of the organization for almost 50 years. She is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, the VFW Auxiliary and the Amvets Auxiliary. An Army veteran herself, she was stationed at the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC) headquarters at Fort McClellan in Alabama during 1955 and 1956. Her husband, Harold, to whom she was married for 42 years before he passed away, was a World War II veteran.
Yauck is involved in a myriad of activities with the Eight and Forty. The group meets the third Tuesday of every month for lunch, their business meeting and to play bingo.
“We have fun doing what we do,” she says.
The group hand-crafts numerous items that are donated to area hospitals. “Ditty bags” containing puzzle books, toys, coloring books and crayons are sewn by members as well as pillows and other novelty items. Yauck notes that the items help comfort children who are in strange and unfamiliar hospital environments.
The group also sponsors a scholarship for nurses in the state of Illinois. The Eight and Forty Lung and Respiratory Disease Nursing Scholarship was established to assist registered nurses with advanced preparation for positions in supervision, administration or teaching.
Yauck has a personal interest in the group’s objectives. She has suffered from asthma her entire life. The organization’s focus on lung diseases in children is particularly relevant to her.
“There have been such tremendous advancements in the treatment of lung diseases,” she says. “When I was a child, there were no inhalers or nebulizers and very little medicine.”
She says it took a long time before asthma was actually recognized as a medical problem and not just a psychological one.
Yauck has held various positions in the organization over the years. She notes the organization is always looking for new members. Women do not have to be veterans themselves to join.
“Any mother, daughter, sister, wife or granddaughter of a veteran can sign up,” she says. Anyone interested in joining can call Yauck at (618) 365-7319.
The Forty and Eight is an organization that has been helping children in the spirit of charity and patriotism for almost 100 years and Patricia Yauck has been a part of that tradition for nearly five decades.