September 19, 2014

Without new members, VFW hall to close

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

AuGRES — Without an injection of new blood, the AuGres Veterans of Foreign Wars post may be facing a state takeover, according to Post Quartermaster Gerald Dewald.

Membership at the VFW post has been dwindling for years, from a high number of 250 members to the current number of 107.

“Younger people don’t want to join,” Dewald said. “The members we have are in their 70s and 80s.”

“If we can get 10-12 of these new kids coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan to join and help keep it open, we could make it go,” Dewald added. “But the way of life has changed, too.”

If not enough members, both new and old, show up for the election of new officers in April, Dewald said the post could be shut down and taken over by the state.

While the post is still technically open and the VFW members still meet there, Dewald said the utilities, like water, are currently shut off. Members go in early to turn the heat on before meetings — otherwise it is closed for rental. The VFW pavilion is still available for rent. Keeping the post operating costs $600 per month in electricity and gas, Dewald said.

If the AuGres VFW is unable to continue operating at the post, Dewald said members would try and find a smaller meeting place to move into. Individual members may also see about joining another post.

“If someone wanted to buy the post, we could meet somewhere else and stay afloat,” Dewald said.

He said other posts, such as the one in Standish and the remaining post in Tawas, are facing similar membership difficulties. Standish’s post has been able to stay afloat because it has a bar, Dewald said, but the cost of insurance to have one in the AuGres hall would be untenable.

According to Dewald, if potential VFW members have a child in school and are working, they usually have activities filling much of their available time. With more kids participating in more sports programs, veterans with children are spending time supporting those extracurricular activities.

“I can’t blame an individual if they want to spend more time with their family, because that comes first,” Dewald added. “When they get into their 60s or 70s and their kids have grown up and moved out, then they have nothing to do and they can take part.”

Dewald added that whatever happens, the VFW would still hold its Memorial Day parade and continue to provide honor guards at veterans’ funeral services, as long as they could “scrape together” enough people.

The VFW election will be held Friday, April 13 at the AuGres post hall. Dewald said anyone interested is welcome to show up.

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