VFW Post 8600
Gadsden Alabama
817 Rainbow Dr
Gadsden Alabama, 35901
Phone: 256.546.2440
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Making a Case for Relocating Post Home

Our Post is surviving, but just barely. Something needs to be done if our Post is to exist past the next year. During a Special Post Membership Meeting on February 14th, 2017 at 6:00PM a plan will be presented to gather our assets and downsize the Post. A plan is just that, nothing can be done unless the membership agrees to the plan. The plan is open for discussion and modification. This article outlines some of the factors that resulted us to conclude that action needs to be taken, or at least discuss it with the membership.

The VFW
In case you have not heard, the VFW, along with other Veterans groups, have been losing membership in recent years. While there have been numerous opinions given on why this is happening, one is that we are between wars! Since membership in the VFW is restricted to those who have served in a combat zone in a Foreign War, the VFW needs 'wars' to survive - not a very good reason to exist. There have been wars and there are veterans eligible for membership, but all posts are struggling with membership.
The WWII vets are down to a very few. The Korean Vets are not far behind. Those two groups made up a large portion of those who joined the VFW at some point in their lives, when they realized they had something to share with their comrades - even if it was just a beer.
The Vietnam vets took a long time to overcome the Country's disgust with a political war that they did not create, but they only participated in because of the laws of the land. I am sure the VFW membership dropped between WWII and Korean wars to the Vietnam war. The Vietnam vets eventually took over, but now their numbers are going down and we are again between wars.
Other political wars, Iraq/Afghanistan have placed those vets in the same position as the Vietnam vets - they are really not ready to share their memories. That is the sad state of Wars and what it does to those who participate. Until we can get the younger generation to take over the reins, we need to do something if we are to survive, if we really want to survive.
Our Post
The majority of the VFW Posts are run by a few of the elected Line Officers. Most volunteer for this responsibility, and like any elected position will soon burn out if they do not have the support of the membership. Like many other posts, we have a difficult time filling post Officers, let alone having them give up the time and effort to do what has to be done to exist. Lets look at some of the factors that resulted in coming to the conclusion that we must downsize:
Income
Our only source of income is the Post's Canteen and events at the Post (Dance, Karaoke, etc). Many Posts do not have Canteens and derive their income by renting their facilities or property. We do not have that luxury. Fund raising drives like Buddy Poppy drives raise money, but money that cannot be used to pay the bills, only to help Veterans in Need. If we don't have a profitable canteen, we will soon run out of funds to keep the Post Home open, with or without a canteen.
After the disaster of what a former regime did a few years ago, spending us out of oblivion, we did recover. Through the efforts of a few, we went from -$1,200 dollars in the bank to a high of over $70,000 - although using revenue generating methods that were on the edge of legality. We've been averaging around $60,000 for the last year, but over $20,000 of that is in the Relief Fund.
Membership
Due to an Alabama ABC law, our Post must have 150 paid members to keep its Class I Club license. We are currently at 168 members and it does approach dropping below 150 at different times of the year. Again, without a canteen we can't exist in the current facilities. In the last four or five years our membership dropped from almost 300 members down to an average of about 160 members.
Facilities and Expenses
  1. We have over 7,000 square feet of usable space for our members and guests and another 2,500 square feet of unusable space that was condemned at one point. Most of the space has to be heated or cooled under controlled conditions (when used). The cost of utilities alone is about $1,600 a month, or $400 a week
  2. The canteen is open 67 hours a week. We need employees to run the canteen. Wages and taxes are about $10 and hour or $670 a week.
  3. Licenses, Insurance and Fees are about $10,000 a year or another $500 a week
  4. The building is old, inefficient and things break. You also have expenses for things like canteen supplies and equipment that average $200 a week.
  5. With just those items we need $1,270 a week just to stay open. In order to stay open you have to buy inventory to sell. Thats another $600 a week.
  6. We are now up to the fact that the Canteen must produce about $2,000 a week to exist, and we really need about $2,500 to allow for some growth and have a cushion.
We've been meeting those goals over the last few years, but there has been a steady decline.
Our Saturday dance and Sunday Karaoke have gone from packed houses years ago to about 20 to 30 participants (in a 5,000 sq ft hall!). We love our participants, but do not make enough money on the events to pay for the inefficient, albatross heating and cooling system. Just as we are between wars, dance customers are between generations. The younger generation does not want to hear what the older generation wants to hear and vice versa.
We have no front door! Driving by the post it looks like an abandoned building - unless the 20 or 30 people are attending the Dance.
The canteen area is too small and the dance hall is too big. Both are inefficiently laid out.
We do not need 7,000 sq ft to support 160 member of which only about 20% ever show up at the post (most only once in a blue moon) and only about 6% show up at meetings that are designed to control what the post can do.
Some other issues, past history and what we've tried
There is competition between Post 2760 and Post 8600. There was an attempt to merge the posts a few years ago but "Petty differences and stubbornness" prevented that action from occurring. The competition has only gotten worse. We really need to merge at some point, but probably not until both Posts conclude that it can be done for the Good of the Order.
  1. The Post was offered over $1,000,000 for the property several years ago. Note, I said property, not building - the building is worthless. The membership turned down the offer.
  2. The property has an appraised tax value at almost $600,000. That make the true value close to the $1,000,000 offered several years ago.
  3. We’ve inquired into getting the property appraised, but the cost of that is about $30,000, nearly half of the cash we have on hand.
  4. We’ve inquired on having the condemned area (old canteen) fixed (and to have a front door!). The front wall is crumbling with over 1 inch cracks. The bathrooms were disabled years ago and date back 30+ years. The front of the building was originally a porch and was closed in by someone who, lets just say didn’t know what they were doing. There is a 1 foot drop in elevation between the front of the building and 20 feet into the building (the front porch!) The electrical system has been re-wired by amateurs that even scares me - a shade tree electrician!
  5. The estimated cost of reclaiming the old canteen was over $130,000 and that was a low estimate, only guessing on the front wall.
  6. There is also the option of tearing down the old canteen and have at least a side door into a remodeled canteen, but that would probably be close to $100,000.
The Plan - What we want to do.
While the property is not a great location for a VFW, there is a hospital only a few blocks away. There are rumors about the hospital being purchased by a renowned Birmingham hospital. That makes the property a good location for a medical facility. Again the building is worthless, but the property may not be.
Given that we do not have money to get an appraisal and put the building up for sale with a commercial agent, we would like to attempt to sell the property by putting the building up for sale-by-owner. We really want to only accept bids but may have to put up a price. Our low is about $600,000 and suggesting $750,000 or best offer.
What if we get $600,000? Either move to an exiting facility in the area or build a new facility for approximately $250,000. A facility that is large enough for our downsizing effort. The rest of the money goes in the bank and hopefully the Iraq and Afghanistan vets will take over and make things better.
Optionally we could just close the post home, save some money for Veterans in Need and have meeting each month at some restaurant until the money runs out.
Again, it is just a plan. If we do not receive any bids, nothing is lost except for time and effort. We can continue and hopefully get more membership support.
If we are forced to close down, the results would be the State Department taking over the property and doing what they want with the profits.
Steven Alex, VFW Post 8600 Adjutant
Officers voting for Special Meeting
David LaPoint
Will Campbell
Johnny Holmes
Maurice Sanders
Steve Alex
Joyce Shelly
Jimmy Bozeman
Ray Holland