"We chose a military theme this year to support our active military and honor our many local veterans," Pioneers Extension Homemakers Club President Lucy Strauch said about the club's winning first-place entry in the bank sponsored Christmas decorating contest. "It was such an honor to do this and the community has been so supportive of the project. It has been such a moving experience for all of us."
Strauch and Juanita Neese helped found the club 50 years ago.
The club has won several times while participating in the decorating contest since First Financial Bank opened in Poland more than 20 years ago.
"We use the prize money to support our community projects," Neese said.
The members of the group helps if there is a need in the community by supporting various charities like the Ronald McDonald House, Hospital Bears, Head Start Project, Christmas Puppy Pillows and supporting a scholarship project.
"If there is a need in our community, we try to help," Strauch said, adding that winning isn't everything for the club. "We won by having the privilege to be able to honor our military and community by setting up this display for people to enjoy."
While club members were setting up the display of various military memorabilia from World War II, bank customers and local residents would come and volunteer to supply more items.
"For a while, there was a steady stream of people coming in the bank to bring things for the display," bank teller Kathy Dalton said. "There has been so much community support for this project, it's really overwhelming. It's been unusual to find out how many veterans that we have locally. They come in and share their stories of military service with us while looking at the display."
Branch Manager Kim Stearley agreed.
"It is very impressive," Stearley said about the display in the front lobby of the bank located at on State Road 42/Main Street, Poland. "We are very pleased and honored to have it here."
Unique military items like a gas mask from World War I used by Clifford Sinders during his military service, a United States flag that flew over the capital procured by Senator Richard Lugar's Executive Assistant Paul R. "Chip" Sinders II, various male and female uniforms from all branches of the services since World War II and the Honor Tablet of the Clay County Veterans are some of the items in the display.
The display is open for the public to view during regular banking hours until the weekend after Christmas. The club will provide snacks during the week of Christmas for visitors.
Strauch also said Farm Bureau Insurance has donated patriotic bookmarks for visitors to take as a memento of their visit.
"There has been so much interest in the display that we are talking about leaving it up for a little while longer," Strauch said about the support for the project. "We didn't do this to get praise for our club, but, with the war on, we only wanted to honor our military and veterans. We have had so much support, this has really boosted my hope and belief in mankind."
For more information or to join an extension club in Clay County, contact the Clay County Extension Office at 448-9023.