American Legion post faces big battle

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  • | 7:06 p.m. March 21, 2015
  • Ormond Beach Observer
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Maintenance costs of the historic headquarters are putting a big strain on their budget.

Wayne Grant

Staff Writer

“There are termites in this building older than Ormond Beach,” Rev. Willie Branch said recently, speaking about the old government building, originally a school house, that now serves as headquarters for American Legion Post 267.

He may be kidding about the termites, but he’s not kidding when he talks about the maintenance required on the historic building at 156 New Britain Ave. that was constructed in 1895.

The veterans are finding themselves in a financial bind. They pay a token rent to the city, which owns the building, but their lease requires them to pay 100% of the maintenance.

“This building needs some major work,” Branch said, who is post commander. Currently there are electrical issues and deteriorating wood.

Being an Ormond Beach Historic Landmark, any exterior changes must conform to the original design. And the ancient wood structure is expensive to heat and cool.

Branch would like the city to form a partnership with the legion to take care of the building that has been their headquarters since 1952, and perhaps split the maintenance cost.

Funds needed for charity work

Jim Bowers, first vice commander, said the financial demands make it unable for them to fulfill their mission of service to the community.

“We can’t support charitable organizations to the level we have in the past,” he said.

The post helps organizations such as the Salvation Army, Halifax Urban Ministries and Jerry Doliner Food Bank, and works with the schools to provide meals to needy families at the holidays.

They also send students to Boys State and support a Boy Scout Troop. “We used to go to jamborees but we don’t have money for that,” Bowers said.

The charitable work is very important to the members.

“The camaraderie is the biggest thing,” Bowers said. “But at the end of the day, it feels really good to know you helped somebody. There’s a certain amount of pride.”

Loss of Internet café hurt finances

Branch said they were doing fine financially until their Internet café, where people paid to played games on computers, were removed.

“That created a serious problem for organizations like the Legion,” Branch said. “We made quite a bit of money from that.”

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law in 2013 that made Internet cafes illegal. Opponents had argued the computer games were actually gambling. The city of Ormond Beach ordered the games removed from the building in 2012, amid the rising controversy.

The post has also not been raising as much money with their annual big fundraiser, the charity golf tournament. Sponsorships have not come back from the recession.

The veterans pay $35 per year for membership, but $21 goes to the national organization to be placed in a pool for grants to help veterans in need. Additionally, membership has been dwindling as they lose World War II veterans.

“I’m going to a funeral tomorrow,” Branch said.

A startling statistic

An important function of the legion is to help veterans find the services they need, and the newest members tend to be Vietnam veterans.

“Here’s a startling statistic,” Bowers said. “More Vietnam vets have committed suicide than died during the conflict.”

They are not seeing many veterans of the Gulf conflicts, yet, because they are busy raising families, but the members of the post expect them to join in time.

The post members hope to get a restructured lease agreement.

“The city has a larger budget than we have and it’s their building,” Bowers said.


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