By now, the nation is well aware of the toll that the coronavirus has taken on businesses, restaurants and the community at large. There are, however, other unique entities and organizations also facing the same challenges. Recently, I read an article about a Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3260 located south of Boston, Massachusetts that surrendered their charter and closed the post for good; a post that was established and serving its community since 1935. This closing is not an isolated incident. Many veterans organizations and fraternal organizations have struggled to keep their doors open amid the pandemic.
Many who really don’t know much about the VFW or American Legion often view them simply as a restaurant or bar; but that is only a small part of what is offered through these organizations. I am a member of the American Legion Carroll Post 31 in Westminster where I serve as the finance officer. The lounge and restaurant operations are critical to our organization as the revenue raised from these activities funds our community service projects. Just like other restaurants, The American Legion experienced the same impact on this aspect of our business which then in turn affects the funds for our community outreach. When a post closes its doors, the services provided to the community and veterans also cease to exist.
Approximately five years ago, an important conversation began at one of our American Legion executive meetings. We began discussions about strengthening our balance sheet and having a stronger rainy-day fund. This was debated, discussed, and even became professionally contentious at times. The board made the decision to prioritize our budget and curtail spending to strengthen our financial position. The theme that rose from those discussions was that, “if the American Legion was not in business, it would not be able to help anyone.”
Under the leadership of the commanders who served, tough choices were made to put our post in a stronger financial position. While we did not foresee a pandemic of this nature, our efforts put us in the position to successfully navigate the financial challenges so far without discontinuing our core community services. The American Legion continues with scholarships, commitment to scouting, youth sports and activities, and a long list of other items. In our community we have numerous American Legion posts and VFW posts that provide a tremendous amount of support to the approximately 13,000 veterans in Carroll County.
The work we did put us in a good condition to weather this storm but is not the only reason we are still here. We have a great staff of loyal and hardworking employees, strong membership and dedicated officers. We are also grateful to be in a community which gives so much support to our Veterans and veterans organizations as not all posts are so fortunate to be in such a community. We would also like to thank our county commissioners who proactively reached out to us early on in this pandemic to determine how the county could assist us in continuing to remain a strong part of the community. Thanks to “all of the above,” we look forward to continuing to serve you.
To learn more about The American Legion Post 31, what they do and how you may become involved or possibly a member, please go to carrollpost31.org, call 410-857-6953 or email Commander@CarrollPost31.org.
Todd Mitchell, major, MD Army National Guard, retired, is the finance officer for American Legion Post 31.