Dwin­dling mem­ber­ship puts an­other vets post on the mar­ket

County ser­vices di­rec­tor calls it a sign of the times

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Dan Her­beck

Lead­ers of Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 567 are hop­ing to sell their his­toric build­ing in Or­chard Park be­cause of the dwin­dling num­ber of vet­er­ans ac­tive in the post.

Drop­ping par­tic­i­pa­tion in post meet­ings and events is one of the main rea­sons why the prop­erty at 3740 N. Buf­falo St. is be­ing put on the mar­ket, the com­man­der of Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 567 told The Buf­falo News on Thurs­day.

It’s a sign of the times, ac­cord­ing to Erie County’s vet­er­ans ser­vices di­rec­tor.

Fewer vet­er­ans th­ese days are ac­tive mem­bers of posts run by the Amer­i­can Le­gion, the Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars and other ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“We have about 300 mem­bers, but only 20 or so show up for our meet­ings,” said Joseph P. Cash, 86, com­man­der of the post in Or­chard Park. “Most of us who do show up are older guys. The younger vet­er­ans just aren’t in­ter­ested. Most of our guys who used to par­tic­i­pate are up in heaven, play­ing pinochle up there.”

The Or­chard Park post is not the only vet­er­ans or­ga­ni­za­tion in Erie County that suf­fers from a lack of par­tic­i­pa­tion, said David J. Shenk, the county’s di­rec­tor

of vet­eran ser­vices.

“A num­ber of posts in the area are talk­ing about ei­ther closing or merg­ing with other posts,” Shenk said. “You get a lot more par­tic­i­pa­tion from vets from World War II, the Korean War and Viet­nam. Not so much with the younger vet­er­ans from more re­cent wars. The older vet­er­ans are dy­ing off, and younger guys just aren’t as in­ter­ested in join­ing posts.”

Erie County has more than 50,000 vet­er­ans and at least 73 vet­er­ans posts, said Shenk, who also es­ti­mated that “about half” of the county’s vet­er­ans be­long to some kind of vet­er­ans or­ga­ni­za­tion. But many mem­bers are not ac­tive.

The num­ber of vet­er­ans posts in Erie County is shrink­ing, Shenk said.

Over the past decade, “we’ve seen a post close ev­ery year or two,” he said.

Since 1995, Shenk has been com­man­der of VFW Post 2556 in Bos­ton. “At one time, we had about 60 mem­bers,” he said. “Now, we’re down to about 15 mem­bers. About five of those mem­bers at­tend meet­ings.”

Shenk added that, in his opin­ion, one rea­son why many of the county’s older vet­er­ans joined posts and ac­tively par­tic­i­pated is that they were in­ter­ested in get­ting in­for­ma­tion about im­por­tant is­sues in­volv­ing vet­er­ans.

“The younger vet­er­ans, it seems to me, go to the in­ter­net for that kind of in­for­ma­tion,” Shenk said. “They just aren’t join­ers.”

Cash, an Army vet from the Korean War era, said his post’s build­ing at the cor­ner of Web­ster Road dates back to 1870 and was orig­i­nally built as a home for Eras­tus D. Web­ster, who dur­ing the Civil War served in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of

Pres­i­dent Abra­ham

Cash said he be­lieves the build­ing, which in­cludes a meet­ing room and a hall suit­able for wed­dings and other events, should sell for Lin­coln. at least $1 mil­lion.

If the build­ing sells, Cash said the or­ga­ni­za­tion it­self will con­tinue to op­er­ate as long as some mem­bers are still in­ter­ested.

“Give us a mil­lion dol­lars, and we’ll build a smaller hall, or we’ll rent space some­where else,” Cash said.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal folk­lore, the Or­chard Park build­ing comes with a spe­cial added fea­ture – Eras­tus Web­ster’s ghost.

“It’s been said that he’s heard rat­tling down there in the base­ment some­times af­ter midnight,” Cash said. “I’ve never seen him.”

Photos by John Hickey/Buf­falo News

Some of the more ac­tive mem­bers of Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 567 in­clude, from left, Rob Davis, Mark Nye and Den­nis Carr. The build­ing in which they meet in Or­chard Park is now up for sale.

“Most of our guys who used to par­tic­i­pate are up in heaven, play­ing pinochle up there.” Amer­i­can Le­gion Post Com­man­der Joseph P. Cash

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