Legion weighs options for building, grounds

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Lack of funding, dwindling membership affecting post's activities

About 26 people weighed the future of the Irwin-Easley American Legion Post 118 recently, as the group's leadership says declining membership and lack of funding will force action if not remedied.

Darrell Hoveland, post commander, said active membership has dwindled to about six or eight people, making it difficult to maintain operations.

An aging building is another issue the post is facing, as the HVAC units, installed in the early 1980s, are not efficient, and the building suffers from other outdated maintenance issues.

Furthermore, a drop in Bingo participation forced the post to cut the activity, as it needed about 45 participants to break even, but was only getting about 25.

Financially, the post still has about $36,000 in CDs, down from about $50,000, and about another $8,000 in a checking account. The post spends about $1,000 per month on building and grounds utilities and maintenance, including janitorial work and the mowing of the grounds.

Its largest moneymakers each year are the tractor pulls in July and September, which can bring in $10,000 to $13,000 if weather is cooperative.

"We've thought about selling this building and just getting a building somewhere else," Hoveland said. "We've also talked about turning over the property to the city to have them maintain it, with an agreement that the post gets to use it certain times during the year."

Hoveland said issues leading to the post's bind are changing times, as older members are passing away, but not being replaced by younger veterans.

"This is a new generation," Hoveland said. "Last year, we lost 10 members to death, and we only gained two

new members."

Bob Mitchell, former post commander and member since 1953, said when he was commander, members would go the homes of prospective legionnaires and convince them to sign up.

"We have 113 members on the books," Hoveland said. "Most of them are elderly. We have about five to eight people who show up for meetings, and up until recently, we had a WWII veteran working the tractor pull."

Marvin Henninngson, a member of the post, said communication is a big issue.

"I never get any correspondence," he said. "And, to get the younger people, you have to go on the web or social media."

Dale Lansdown, a newer member at the post, said when he moved to the Cassville area, joining the Legion was a chore.

"It's hard to find people at the post," he said. "There's no website or Facebook page, and it's tough to get ahold of anyone. I had to come to the building and knock on the door a couple times before I got to talk to someone. My wife and I wanted to get married in the pavilion on the Legion grounds, and even that was tough because I couldn't get ahold of anyone."

Lansdown volunteered to build a Facebook page for the Legion in hopes of getting more information to the public and attracting younger members.

Much of what the Legion does, leadership said, is more behind the scenes than out in the open. The post holds a food basket drive at Christmas, which fed 22 families last year. It also sends youth to Boys State and Girls State, supports the Cub Scouts, drives veterans for the DAV, supports the local JROTC program, helps veterans whose homes have been damaged by fire, buys propane for veterans in the winter if they can't afford it, and hosts a cadet academy.

Last year, the post spent $2,275 on sending youth to Boys State in Jefferson City, and by the end of March, including other expenditures, had shelled out $5,480.

To come up with a solution to the post's situation, members voted to form a committee of no less than five members to formulate three options for the Legion building and grounds. The proposals will be presented to members at a meeting on Aug. 20 at 2 p.m.

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