Delta’s American Legion chapter has fallen on hard times and is asking the community for help.
Roger Morr, chaplain of American Legion AEEEW #373, located at 5939 State Route 109, said the organization was already struggling before its fundraising calendar was knocked askew by the coronavirus pandemic, lopping off a necessary source of income. He said the bank carrying the Legion’s mortgage for a building constructed in 2000 has graciously been permitting only interest payments during the pandemic but full payments will likely come due again in September.
While some viable money-making activities have paid for utilities and other expenses, the 100-member Legion chapter has now created a GoFundMe account to raise the $403,096 it will take to pay off the facility for good.
Morr said there was apparently no provision for paying off the bank loan in 15-years, “so it’s just been ongoing.” He said if the Legion’s current trend continues, the note, which came due in 2015, won’t be paid off until 2040.
Even as the Legion slipped six years into arrears with the bank the organization was able to keep making satisfactory payments. “The bank has been wonderful working with us over the years. It’s just when the COVID hit and we couldn’t generate any income that we hit a brick wall,” Morr said.
Fundraisers that were possible earned just enough to make the interest payments and pay utility bills. But COVID restrictions kept potential renters of the building away, and revenue plummeted. “We’re just struggling and struggling to keep our nose above water,” Morr said.
The Legion’s auxiliary members held craft shows but the annual gun raffle dinner, reverse raffles, and a November feather party were canceled. “We weren’t able to do anything to generate any money,” Morr said.
He added that some of the Legion’s troubles stem from declining membership, which five years ago was at 166 members. “People today don’t volunteer. They don’t want to join up,” he said.
Dorie Joseph, who created the GoFundMe account for the Legion, said the bank was starting to push for the funds that are due. “They worked with us for years, but it just got to the point where something had to be done or they were going to lose the building, and it’s too nice a building to give up,” she said. “COVID over the last 1 1/2 years took away the money they got from having reservations, so basically that’s why we need to keep the building going. We just need to get (the word) out there.”
Joseph added, “It’s a great facility for banquets, for wedding receptions…any of that type of thing. Also, it’s to keep our veterans in the limelight. People worked hard to get it going, and we just need to keep the facility available for people.”
As of Tuesday, the GoFundMe account has raised $920 for the effort. Morr said all of the money raised will be used directly to pay down the debt.
He said people have begun calling again to rent the building but that won’t magically cure the financial strain the Legion is feeling.
“The GoFundMe account is vital because if we get this behind us we don’t have to constantly be looking over our shoulder,” Morr said. “The bank’s been very gracious to us, and we commend them for doing as much as they have for us, but we’ve come to a point where we have to do something.”
American Legion AEEEW #373 was established in 1921.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.