VFW moves into former Polo Room spaceJanuary 23, 2019
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — Jasper’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 673 has a new home.
Formerly stationed in the brick storefront building on North Newton Street near the Marathon gas station and Anytime Fitness gym, the VFW held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new, leased location — just up the road from the old one — earlier this month.
Club members now congregate just a few minutes north on Newton Street, in the basement of the Ewing Properties building that used to house the Polo Room. The official address is 3131 Newton St., Suite No. 3.
Post Commander Dan Beck said that one of the biggest reasons the social club moved to its new, smaller quarters was because the average age of its membership “is probably 75 years old.” He estimated the post’s space in the basement is between a fourth or a fifth of the size of the old building.
“One of our biggest problems, we would like to have young members who come in from Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, but it seems like from the Vietnam veterans of that era, we’ve got whole generations that’s gone by and they haven’t been joining,” Beck said. “And they haven’t really been joining any clubs, to tell you the truth.”
VFW Post 673 has about 350 members — mostly consisting of Vietnam War veterans. Its auxiliary group is open to relatives and spouses of veterans and has between 200 and 250 members. According to Herald archives, VFW Post 673 bought the building at 1907 N. Newton St. in 1946 and sold it in late 2017 to Patoka River LLC.
Beck explained that the combination of declining membership, the age of the old building and the maintenance it required all factored in to the club’s decision to move.
“That’s a big building,” said Larry Vollmer, the club’s house committee president. “And it’s an old building. And it’s not insulated properly, and it was costing us a bundle for the utilities.”
Even after selling the property, though, the club was permitted to continue operations inside its walls until the end of 2018.
Beck has been a member of the local outfit for nearly 50 years. He encouraged young vets to join the VFW because its primary purpose is to lobby for veterans’ benefits. The Veterans Affairs Benefits system, for example, would not exist without the concentrated efforts of VFWs and other veterans groups like American Legions and the Disabled American Veterans organization. The Legion and VFW also were instrumental in securing the GI Bill.
He and Vollmer both said there is strength in numbers, and worry what could happen with membership in a downward spiral.
“If they want the benefits to keep coming like we’re getting now, they need to join and keep the numbers up,” Vollmer said of the young vets. “Our legislature, they’ll listen to a big group of people because they need votes. But if it dwindles where there’s fewer and fewer VFW members — and even American Legion veterans, too — they might hear you, but they don’t get very excited about doing anything about it.”
Neither he nor Beck knew what will become of the post’s old meeting site.
The VFW is open from 2 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and those hours can be extended if a crowd is present. A short-order menu of pizza and stromboli sandwiches is currently served at the VFW, but the menu will expand in the future.
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