Help coming for struggling American Legion posts
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 14 June 2013 09:25
Mounting costs and declining membership have forced a Fostoria American Legion veterans post to put its club up for auction.
|File photo. People gather during the Post Everlasting ceremony at the 2012 Wood County Fair to honor veterans in the local area who have recently passed. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
"We need to get rid of our biggest liability, which is the building," said Jim Nusser, commander of the Earl Foust Post No. 73. "It just came to the point where the building is eating us up."
The building, constructed in 1996 on Zeller Road, will go up for auction July 9.
"At the time when the club was built, it was a great idea," Nusser said.
But now, he said, it's just too big to support dwindling membership.
In its heyday, the post was 800 members strong. As of this month, that number was 285.
"We could keep it up if participation was greater, but I don't look for that to happen," Nusser said.
"We are losing older members faster than we are gaining new members," he said.
The issue of declining membership and increasing costs is not unique to the Fostoria post. Several Wood County posts are struggling financially, as are posts everywhere, according to State Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green.
Gardner was approached several years ago by a local post to look into greater property tax exemptions for such organizations.
"Finally we are in a position now to provide this support for our local posts," Gardner said.
Gardner proposed an amendment to the state budget bill to try and help some of these cash-strapped posts.
Currently, posts which have $10,000 or less of income annually are given property tax exemptions. Gardner's amendment increases that amount to $36,000.
Another aspect of the amendment changes the definition of "income" which would benefit the posts, Gardner said.
The amendment was proposed in the senate and will now go to a joint committee for review. Its passage is not a guarantee, but Gardner said there is a "strong likelihood" it will be.
"I believe our veterans' posts are key organizations in our community. If we can provide some support to help them stay open, then I think we should do that," Gardner said.
He realizes the amendment is not the saving grace for veterans organizations.
"We are not suggesting this is the only issue that is important for veterans posts to stay active," Gardner said.
In Fostoria, Nusser said despite the post's building going on the chopping block, the organization plans to continue on. If enough money is generated from the auction, Nusser plans to move into another, smaller space.
"We still hope we can continue with some of the programs for our veterans and with our community obligations," like community memorial services and military honor guards, Nusser said.
The post is home to four units, the American Legion, Sons of the American Legion, the auxiliary unit and an American Legion motorcycle group.
"It's going to be a great loss to the community and for the veterans," Nusser said.
Over the years, the post has been home to many chicken barbecues, Veteran's Day activities, dances and other social events.
"For the last six to eight months, we have been going from month-to-month trying to see if we could make it," he said. "But we have finally come to the point where we aren't going to make it."