Frank­fort’s VFW Post strug­gling to stay open

Com­man­der says over­due bills threaten re­source

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAND - By Su­san DeMar Laf­ferty slaf­ Twit­ter @Su­sanLaff

As a vet­eran of the Viet­nam War and the U.S. Ma­rine Corps, Stan Tylin­sky never shied away from a tough as­sign­ment.

But just a few months into his role as com­man­der of Frank­fort’s VFW Post 1493, he said he is now fight­ing to keep its doors open.

“I would rather be in fox­hole sur­rounded by bad guys with a lot of ammo than put up with this,” he said.

Tylin­sky did not re­al­ize that the post was be­hind in its bills when he took over, he said, not­ing that it lost a ma­jor source of rev­enue when Frank­fort’s Beer En­ter­tain­ment Tent As­so­ci­a­tion dis­banded in 2017.

The as­so­ci­a­tion was a coali­tion of civic groups that all earned money by pro­vid­ing vol­un­teers to serve in the beer tent at the Frank­fort Fall Fes­ti­val for nearly 20 years.

Of­fi­cials pre­vi­ously said it folded due to a lack of vol­un­teers, and the beer tent was re­designed into an up­scale Beer and Wine Gar­den, with a more sub­dued set­ting.

Tylin­sky said his VFW al­ways had enough vol­un­teers to cover their shifts, which pro­vided them with about $8,000 an­nu­ally — enough to carry them through the year.

“We cer­tainly re­lied on that rev­enue and have not had it for two years,” he said.

Neigh­bor­ing posts are buoyed by video gam­ing rev­enues, but that is pro­hib­ited in Frank­fort, he said. Even though the VFW is a 501(c)(3) non-profit op­er­a­tion, it still has ex­penses like any other busi­ness — a mort­gage, prop­erty taxes, sales taxes, liquor li­censes, in­sur­ance and util­i­ties.

A lot of bills were not paid on time, or not paid at all, and IRS forms had not been filed. Real es­tate taxes were past due be­cause the bill was mailed to the wrong ad­dress. Util­i­ties were paid on credit cards to keep the lights on, he said.

“Money got tight real quick,” Tylin­sky said. Com­pli­cat­ing the prob­lem was that bills were not mailed to the post on Pfeif­fer Road, but to the home of a mem­ber, who has since died, and mem­bers were not told of the dire fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

Tylin­sky said he “ran into a buz­z­saw” when he took over in July. He and oth­ers have put up some of their own money to cover ex­penses in the mean­time, and per­form rou­tine main­te­nance, whether it is a non-flush­ing toi­let, a leaky roof or a fail­ing air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem on a sum­mer day.

“I am just try­ing to iron all this out and put a bud­get to­gether. Peo­ple tell me I am crazy,” he said.

His main con­cerns are cov­er­ing the mort­gage and pay­ing the state for the post’s re­tail liquor li­cense, which is due Nov. 24. If that doesn’t hap­pen, the doors would close on Nov. 25, he said.

He said he has been so fo­cused on pay­ing bills that it is dif­fi­cult to ful­fill the VFW’s pri­mary mis­sion of help­ing vet­er­ans in need.

“We’re sup­posed to be help­ing them, not sav­ing our­selves. But hon­estly, I need ev­ery nickel and dime that I can scrape up,” the com­man­der said.

Mem­bers have cre­ated a Go­FundMe page — “Help Save the Frank­fort VFW 1493” and have launched other ef­forts to help pay the bills. More in­for­ma­tion also is on Face­book.

A Mo­town Party is sched­uled at 8 p.m. Nov. 17, and par­tic­i­pants are en­cour­aged to come in cos­tumes from that era. Mem­bers are seek­ing do­na­tions for raf­fle prizes.

A Queen of Hearts draw­ing is held ev­ery Tues­day at 7 p.m., and mem­bers only dream of the cash pot grow­ing as large as it did at other posts in Mor­ris and McHenry, which at­tracted hun­dreds of play­ers.

Mem­bers would like to bring in new peo­ple, with fresh ideas, and re­vive the Fri­day fish frys.

Ac­cord­ing to its Go­FundMe page, the post is “vi­tal” to vet­er­ans and the com­mu­nity. It’s a place for vets to call home, en­joy a beer and swap tales with oth­ers who un­der­stand.

“It’s sad” to think it might close, said Vicky Gress, who used to be an ac­tive mem­ber of the aux­il­iary, un­til it folded. “My heart is here. We have some good times here.”

The post is on the out­skirts of town, sur­rounded by open space, and sits on 11 acres in the south­east cor­ner of Pfeif­fer Road and Sauk Trail. The post owns five acres, and ComEd has the rights to the other six.

Be­yond the bar area, mem­bers added on Build­ing B — a small ban­quet hall used for small par­ties and fish frys that could seat about 80. Oc­ca­sion­ally it is rented out for show­ers, birth­days and fundrais­ers. The Frank­fort car show was held on post grounds once this year, and it was so well re­ceived, Tylin­sky hopes to bring them back next sum­mer.

As the com­man­der looks out over the acreage, he said they would like to make plans for the fu­ture, maybe ex­pand, cre­ate a pa­tio with a fire­place, make bet­ter use of their space. But lack­ing funds, he is now con­sid­er­ing leas­ing the north half of the prop­erty to gen­er­ate some rev­enue.

“I got to be able to keep the doors open,” he said.

De­spite their strug­gles, mem­bers will com­mem­o­rate Vet­er­ans Day Sun­day with an open house, food and re­fresh­ments. They also plan to host a flag re­tire­ment cer­e­mony with lo­cal Scouts on Nov. 18.

For more in­for­ma­tion, call Tylin­sky at 815-9311493.


A Go­FundMe page has been cre­ated to help raise funds for the Frank­fort VFW Post 1493, at 22057 Pfeif­fer Road.

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