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VFW post struggles with funding

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- During this economic recession, many service organizations have taken hits in funding due to usually generous donors tightening purse strings. Some organizations have responded to the cuts by limiting, or in some cases eliminating, services all together.

During this time, one organization has quietly trod through its struggle determined to stay a relevant part of the community while at the same time increasing its generosity.

That organization is the Albany Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2785 on Philema Road, which is on the verge of shutting its doors. Its leaders now fear that many services the post provides to the community will be lost.

"There has been a lot of misconception about the VFW and other veterans organizations," said VFW Post 2785 Commander Johnny White. "A lot of people assume that we are a bunch of old men that sit around and drink and tell war stories. It's just not true."

While that misunderstanding is popular among some members of the public, White said that vision of the VFW conflicts with the organization's motto: "Honor the dead by helping the living."

"We are in dire need of funds because of the work we do in the community," said the VFW post commander. "We spend several thousands of dollars a year in services to the community."

Indeed, the organization boasts a service track record rivaled by few.

In addition to their work in assisting veterans with VA claims and providing assistance for regular visits to the VA hospital, the VFW members also mentor youth groups, volunteer with community food banks and assist law enforcement with programs about fire safety and drug awareness.

White said the VFW also honors local educators with the National Citizenship Education Teacher's Award, as well as empowering local students with scholarship programs such as Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen. The JROTC and scouting groups have also relied on the support of the VFW.

"One of our biggest campaigns is (collecting donations for) the 'Buddy Poppies'," said White. "We give out poppies in exchange for donations to help disabled veterans find employment."

The VFW post commander said the community should note that donations to the VFW go into a relief fund specifically for programs like the Buddy Poppy Campaign that are used only for stated purposes.

"You have to love what you do; it's a lot of work," said White, who is Albany VFW Post 2785's first black commander. "I joined the VFW to give my time, talent and resources. Involvement is the key in this organization."

VFW Post 2785 is currently seeking donations so that the post can continue its long history of community involvement. White said the post currently has 727 members locally and is the second-largest post in Georgia.

Paul Murray, vice commander for Post 2785, said post members hope that more veterans of foreign wars will want to join their organization.

"We have more out-of-state members than we have locally," said Murray. "We are trying to get veterans who have serve in Afghanistan and Iraq."

White and Murray also noted that anyone in the community is welcome to use the VFW's impressive facility for any type of event. The post on Philema Road has a large hall with a stage that can accommodate up to 250 people with an additional annex that is air conditioned and can accommodate up to 25 people.

Murray said the large space is the perfect place for those in the community who require a meeting space for events, parties, weddings and business meetings.

White said the Post's lounge, with its pool table, seating and relaxed atmosphere, would appeal to anyone who wants to have a social gathering.

The VFW Post also has facilities on Lake Chehaw, including a pier for fishing or docking a boat and a picnic area with a bricked grill.

On Nov. 13, in conjunction with Veterans Day, a Veterans Appreciation Ceremony is planned at the Veterans Park Amphitheatre at 10 a.m., followed at 10:30 by a parade from the Civic Center to the VFW.

The parade is open to all vehicles with a patriotic theme.

On that special day, there will be food, a band and a DJ at the VFW with a dice run scheduled to start at 11 a.m. A Hooters bikini contest will take place at 2 p.m. to raise money for the programs provided to veterans by the VFW.

Murray said anyone who wants more information about the possibility of using the Post's facilities or becoming a member of the organization should contact VFW Quartermaster Billy Bushman at (229) 883-9950 and leave a message.