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Veterans organizations are concerned about paying bills

Members of the Sons of Am Vets, participate in a color guard event to honor veterans in Washington, D.C., Nov. 11, 2014. Members of the D.C. National Guard are supporting local and federal law enforcement officials during Veterans Day events. (Photo by Army National Guard Sgt. Ashley Bowman)

Representatives of veterans organizations around the region are worried about paying the bills now that they are closed and unable to hold their regular events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are very nervous and scared. We have no income at this time,” Wayne Buckingham, commander of the AMVETS Post 33 in Jay, said. “We have monthly bills that we still need to pay.”

The water, sewer, electricity, insurance and other bills don’t stop, he said. There are over $3,000 in monthly bills.

“We are lucky we have some buffer savings but we are going to eat that up,” he said.

The post just spent money to have a new sprinkler system to get licensed to have dances.

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“We already are not a profitable organization,” Buckingham said.

Members are trying to turn a negative to a positive by improving the post building. A volunteer crew of veterans and Sons of AMVETS have sanded down the bar. Buckingham called The Epoxy Resin Store in California to get professional advice on how to finish the bar. The veteran-owned company donated about $900 worth of epoxy to Post 33.

“This almost brought tears to our eyes,” Buckingham said.

The post’s bingo is also shut down.

“Bingo is one of our community efforts. We don’t make a lot of money. In general, the bingo staple pays our bills,” he said.

“We are all in the same boat,” Donald Simoneau, finance officer for American Legion Post 10, said.

The post generally makes about $500 on monthly suppers, he said. They also do a fundraiser on occasion.

But with the post closed that won’t be happening. The Legion has nearly $800 in monthly bills to pay, with oil and snow removal averaged in, Simoneau said.

They have a little money saved but that will only last three months at best, he said.

“It is going to be extremely, extremely tight,” Simoneau said. “We have been there for 100 years and we’ll continue. We’re not going anywhere. I don’t think. For us, we basically run on a shoestring.”

“Primarily, we’re concerned for our members, especially for the older ones,” Teresa Drag, commander of VFW Post 9787 in South Paris, said in an email. “Plus it is harder to keep in touch when we can’t meet in person because many of our members don’t use email let alone FaceBook.”

Drag is also District 9 commander of VFW Posts in Jay, South Paris, Auburn, Lewiston and Rumford.

“Yes there is definitely a financial concern. Some Posts are in a better position than others but even then being closed makes an impact on all the Posts,” Drag said. “At the South Paris post, we hold monthly public suppers, and not only do many in the area look forward to an inexpensive ‘home cooked’ (we cook it at the post) meal, but the proceeds keep the building going. As does hall rentals,” she said.

“What really concerns me though is later in May, we do a Buddy Poppy drive on Memorial Day weekend,” she said.

Not only is that a remembrance effort but donations received that weekend are earmarked for “our relief fund. That is specifically used to help veterans and their families,” she said.

“We are keeping in touch and using the phone a lot more. Some of us are bringing supplies to older members who shouldn’t be going out,” she said.

Representatives of the VFW Post 3335 in Jay are facing the same worries.

“We are very concerned,” Jim Manter, judge advocate for VFW Post 3335 in Jay, said. “We are hand-to-mouth as it is during regular times. We are very concerned with the doors being closed for weeks, possibly months, on how we will pay bills in arrears.”

The number of veterans who served in foreign wars is decreasing and many of the younger generation do not see the VFW as an organization that meets their needs, he said.

“We rely on the public to help. Without the public’s help we are at a loss,” he said.

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