Michael G. Ingham, left, a VFW board member and the city’s director of veterans services, spoke during the city’s recent Veterans Day ceremonies. (WHAV News photograph.)
The building housing the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 29 on Kenoza Ave. is closed and likely will be sold.
VFW board members voted Sunday morning to close the 64 Kenoza Ave. building, effective Monday, as maintenance costs mount and member participation dwindle. There is no heat in the building and $10,000 is needed just to fix the furnace, members said. As such, the organization faces the loss of its Health Department-issued occupancy permit tomorrow—the deadline for renewal—and loss of its liquor license by the end of next month. Michael G. Ingham, a VFW board member and the city’s director of veterans services, said the organization can’t pay its bills.
“Electric costs are way up; liquor license has gone up over $3,000. We haven’t really recovered from the cost of putting in a sprinkler system. It’s really devastating. The bar side was maintaining the building, but the bar has been cut down. We need to pay for bartenders, heat … that’s a lot of money,” Ingham told WHAV. Upon approval of the full membership, the building will be listed for sale.
Closing of the building, however, doesn’t mean the VFW won’t continue providing services, Ingham said. He explained the venerable organization will likely share space with American Legion Post 4, 1314 Main St.
“VFW will be maintained. We’re not giving up the charter,” Ingham said. He explained there are still great needs, such as helping Vietnam veterans suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. One of the problems the organization has faced is the loss of most World War II and Korean War veterans. Gulf War and war on terror veterans are eligible, but Ingham said, “younger people are not yet involved because they have busy lives. Things have also changed. Younger people aren’t looking to meet in a building, but rather use social media. It’s a different way we have to approach them.”
Although the annual VFW Santa Parade uses the building for offices and people meet there after parades, there will be no impact on the parade itself, said VFW Santa Parade Chairman Daniel Plourde.
“The VFW is essentially three different entities, Post 29 bar, Lorraine Post Building Association and the VFW Santa Parade. I can speak to the fact the Santa Parade is 100 percent a separate account,” he said. Plourde said the committee has an office, conference room and storage in the building, but he hopes another organization will donate space.
“We will sadly, after 52 years, relocate our office.”
City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan—whose father, the late John Sullivan, started the parade—said the parade can operate without a building.
“I grew up in the place. I’m sad about it, but times have changed. Members can no longer sustain owning a building.” Sullivan.