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‘We need members,’ Veterans fighting to save their American Legion Post in Varina

Posted at 12:11 AM, Jun 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-04 18:52:21-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- When it comes to a military operation precision is key.

For the veterans at American Legion Post 233 attention to detail is critical. The group is not just preparing for a day of entertainment. It is a show for survival.

Post 233 off Route 5 in Varina are expecting a crowd like the good old days.

Saturday’s concert and spaghetti fundraiser will raise badly needed funds for a Legion Post that is much, much quieter these days.

“When I got involved here we still had one WWI veteran," said member Donald Small.

The long-time Legion member grew up in the shadows of the building on Recreation Rd off of Route 5.

American Legion Post 233

American Legion Post 233

The Army veteran said he remembers when weekly functions hummed.

"The room was filled with people. It was just an overflow crowd ever Saturday,” he said.

Small said fewer, aging members mean a shrinking income to keep their beloved Legion alive.

"The biggest thing we need is growth. We need members,” said Small.

Donald Small

Donald Small

For Post 233, membership has been dwindling for quite some time. In 1983, there were 189 members.

Today, that number has shrunk to just 59. Only 12 of the members are active.

American Legion numbers have been dropping nationwide as younger veterans shun the Post.

The Legion claims a little more than 2 million members. That is down from 3.1 million twenty years ago.

For Wayne Gilbert the Post is more than just blocks and mortar.

The Navy veteran said the post is a place of security, where fellow veterans can lean on one another through the good times and bad.

Wayne Gilbert

Wayne Gilbert

“When you have someone to relate to… It is good therapy. It is better therapy than any doctor you can go to," Gilbert said.

That is why the veterans of 233 say they’re not going down without a fight.

"We are just like one big happy family," said Gilbert. “We believe in the whole organization and that it will work. So we believe it will work. It’s got to work."

The concert and spaghetti fundraiser at Post 233 runs from 3-7 p.m. on Saturday. The post is located at 8088 Recreation Rd. in Varina. A $10 donation is suggested.