SIDNEY — Members of the Shelby County Memorial VFW Post 4239 are looking for a new home.
“The building and land has been sold to a LLC from Cincinnati,” said Post Commander Dennis Thatcher. “That’s all I know.”
According to the Shelby County Auditor’s website, the deed transfer was recorded on Aug. 22, 2017, and the new owner is MHP Holdings Northbrooke Mobilehome Park II LTD. The sale price wasn’t listed as it wasn’t given to the auditor’s office because no transfer fees or conveyance fees had to be paid because the VFW is a “federal tax exempt organization,” said Auditor Amy Berning, in an email.
Nearly 5 acres of land, along with the building, was included in the sale.
“Everything went very smooth,” said Thatcher of the sale.
The sale, he said, has been something membership has been talking about for several years.
“We didn’t want to sell the post, but our members are older and fewer,” said Thatcher. “We only have two World War II guys who come out (to the post).
“We can’t continue to lose money every week,” he said. “And it all comes down to money.”
“The cost to keep it open every day is high,” said member Mike Bennett. “The members didn’t believe how expensive it was. We have water, sewer, electric and insurance costs.”
And other items at the post are aging, such as the air conditioners and freezers.
“The air conditioners are 25 years old and we just had one go down,” said Thatcher. “Everything is getting old in the building.”
Bennett said the post has two have two hall rentals on the weekend and the canteen to have a good night “to come even close to making money” for the week.
The VFW is open seven days a week, said Thatcher.
“As long as people come in on Sunday, we’ll stay open,” he said.
The terms of the sale, said both men, is favorable to the post and its members.
“We will be able to be in the building for 30 months rent free,” said Thatcher. “We’re not giving up our VFW charter. We’ll be putting together a group of people to help us find a smaller place to hold our meetings and canteen.”
“We don’t need as large of kitchen facilities as we have now,” said Bennett. “The people who operate our kitchen now are in their 80s.”
Both men said membership in the VFW, and other veterans organizations, is decreasing. Veterans who would be eligible for membership aren’t joining for a variety of reasons: working second shift, coaching their children’s sporting events, looking to purchase a home and be a two-car family.
“They just don’t have time to go the VFW, American Legion or AMVETS,” said Bennett. “The members aren’t happy about the whole situation (the sale) but it’s the responsible thing to do.
“Our friends in the community and other veterans have tried to help, but it wasn’t enough,” said Thatcher.
They said membership for the post is from three sources: veterans, auxiliary members and canteen members. There are around 400 veterans who belong to the post with total membership around 900 people.
“Some only send in a check,” said Bennett. “Some live in Florida, Dorothy Love and the Pavilion.”
Bennett said they want the new post home to be “a nice place for veterans to go. It will represent the service they gave to their country.”
It’s not known at this time if an existing building will serve their needs or whether they will build a new post home.
“We’ll have to have ample parking, an area for our canteen and smaller kitchen,” said Bennett. “We’ll also have to have a place for our tank. We’ll also want a hall for rentals and post functions.
“The clock is running, but we’ve got time to find a new home,” he said.
“Nothing will be done until everyone is satisfied that we can do it (new post),” said Thatcher.
Thatcher and Bennett are hoping the VFW members will provide some good suggestions on where the new post home should be located.
The sale, they said, won’t affect the operations of the post.
“We’re going to be here for the next 30 months,” said Bennett. “Everything we do will continue. There will be no drop in services or change in our public image during this time period. It was our financial responsibility to maintain our image. At the end of the 30 months, we’ll be in a different facility.
“We’d love it if someone patriotic person would donate a minimum of 2 acres of ground to us,” he said. “We’d like it’s proximity to be close to Sidney if we can get it.”
Bennett stressed the VFW post didn’t give away the land and building.
“We got a fair sale price,” said Bennett. “We were able to pay our bills and we have money to put back for our next facility.
“The LLC will have all the outside maintenance such as snow and ice removal and mowing. Inside, they own everything except the VFW items. If the cooler goes down, the VFW will pay the first $500 to repair it and the LLC will pay everything after that.
“It (building and land) was sold but it has a smiley face on it,” said Bennett. “We have mixed feelings about it, but we’re doing the right thing.”
“We didn’t want to be put in a position were we have no choice about it (losing the building),” said Thatcher. “We didn’t want to sell it. We worked for three years trying not to sell it.”
“We had a concept of combining all three canteens (VFW, Legion, AMVETS) three years ago, but that’s not an option now,” said Bennett.
The canteen, said Bennett, is a social aspect of the VFW. Having a canteen is an option for each VFW.
“The funds the social aspect brings in supports the post in its service aspect,” said Bennett.
The pair said the post began experiencing financial problems when Wapakoneta Avenue/County Road 25A was closed several years ago for construction.
“The roadwork put a strain on the post,” said Thatcher. “We received a bill for $50,000 for a change in sewage from the city. We lost people who would come here for lunch. They couldn’t reach to post, so they found other places to eat. They never came back after the roadwork was done.
“It was downhill from there and we never recouped from that,” Thatcher said.
“Membership criteria in the VFW is strict. You had to have been in a combat zone to be a member,” said Bennett. “We rely on our auxiliary and canteen for support of the post.”
Thatcher said the new owners are “military guided.”
“A Marine oversees maintenance on all its properties,” said Thatcher. “they were very interested in helping us. They were very up front and fair with us. Our honor is our word — we were very fair and honest with them.”
Thatcher said selling the building and land is like “selling your home.”
“We’re open on Christmas and New Year’s because that’s their home on the holidays,” said Bennett.
Bennett said the organization will pay the first year dues for a combat veteran who has never been a member of the VFW before.