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Legion Post, anonymous donor pay back taxes

GATESVILLE – Hertford County’s American Legion Post 102, drawing from a fund established through the American Legion Department of North Carolina, stepped up to pay a widow’s property taxes.

Amber Watson faced foreclosure on her Gates County home if she did not pay two years worth of property taxes, which totaled over $2,000.

Watson’s husband, an Army veteran, was killed in a training accident in 2016 in Hawaii, said Johnnie Farmer, adjutant for Post 102. An Army nurse, Watson was medically discharged and was raising the couple’s 5-year-old son in a home that she bought in 2017 from the proceeds paid out from her husband’s life insurance policy.

When Watson received a letter saying she faced foreclosure if she didn’t pay her taxes, she reached out to the American Legion for help. Post 102 is comprised of membership from Hertford and Gates counties.

“What struck everyone was that she was living in a home that she had paid for and if she didn’t pay her taxes, she would be put out on the street – we just didn’t like that,” Farmer said.

Post 102 Commander James Hutchinson added, “American Legion did a good thing. She lost her husband – when you listen to the story of what happened, it was bad that this too was happening to her. She has a son that she is taking care of. She bought this house in Gates County and was trying to make it on her own. And then all this happened. We had to help her out.”

Farmer asked the state American Legion for assistance and a $1,500 check was sent to aid this worthy cause, but the fund was still round $700 short. In June, the Gates County Board of Commissioners opted to give Watson and other taxpayers just a little bit longer to pay their past due taxes.

During late June and early July, Post 102 members passed the hat once to raise about $350 and then again to raise the balance.

“When you tell what had happened to the other Post members, they stepped up. It didn’t take long to raise the money, so we got the donations needed to get,” said Farmer, a longtime former Hertford County commissioner.

Farmer said when the American Legion tried to pay the last bit – nearly $400 – on Tuesday (July 16), they were informed by the county Tax Administrator’s office that the past due amount had been paid by an anonymous supporter of Watson.

“Somebody had already paid the bill – some good citizen paid the rest of her tax bill,” Farmer said.

Farmer said that since the American Legion didn’t need to use the money it raised to pay the last bit of the tax bill, a decision was made to apply these funds toward Watson’s next tax bill.

Farmer said nationwide, the American Legion assists folks who may be struggling to pay their bills. He said Watson was the fourth veteran that he’s filled out the paperwork needed for assistance from the state American Legion within the past year – including a deceased veteran’s wife who needed help to pay a $600 utility bill.

“We’ve helped veterans and their families too,” he said.

Farmer said the American Legion has always been “dedicated to helping people and serving the community.”