Nov. 9, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
It’s only a matter of time until Sunnyside’s local Veterans of Foreign Wars post could be forced to shut down.
The John Vincent Daniels Jr. VFW Post, or Post 2813, has been a neighborhood institution for the past 85 years, but has struggled to keep its doors open in recent times.
The Post has been in its current 47-53 43rd St. location for five years—it’s fourth location since its founding—with each subsequent site smaller than the one before.
Now, the Post estimates that it has a year and a half left, at best, and is calling on the community to help keep it going.
Paul DuBois, who has commanded the local post for the past three years after being a member of it since the late 70s, says the issues at hand are similar to those in other posts.
“Like a lot of organizations, we’re not gaining membership,” he told the Sunnyside Post. “Our younger veterans don’t seem to be interested in joining service organizations.”
Most of the small membership consists of a couple dozen Vietnam veterans, like DuBois, who joked that younger veterans perhaps only picture older folk “drinking beer and telling war stories” at posts.
“That’s not our mission,” he said.
VFW Posts commonly act as social gathering spaces for military veterans, and also help guide them through available programs and services. They also participate in community organizations and ceremonies.
To raise money, posts tend to put on periodic events with small cover charges and rent out their spaces for private use, like weddings or birthdays.
The John V. Daniels Post, for instance, marches in the annual Flag Day Parade, holds events for holidays like Independence Day and Memorial Day, and supports organizations like the Sunnyside Drum and Bugle Corps and the Boy Scouts.
It also puts on monthly events for both members and the public, like karaoke and family feud nights, which also helps the post gain some funds.
But as membership has dropped, so too has its revenue streams and the post’s fingerprint in the community, DuBois said. The majority of the post’s members, additionally, have paid a one-time lifetime membership fee decades ago.
“There’s almost no revenue except for support of the members at the bar,” he said.
The 43rd location has also been bypassed many a time for an event rental, which DuBois says is due to its small size.
The situation stands in stark contrast to the post’s heydays, when booming membership due to the sheer number of veterans in the area ensured its former, large venue spaces would always be occupied and available to rent out.
The post, in an effort to remain open, has considered joining with another local post, and has tried partnering with a similar military-based organization in Fort Totten, to build membership between the two.
“But a lot of the posts in the area, in Queens, aren’t much better off than we are,” DuBois said, adding, “Plus, we don’t bring much to the table in terms of active membership.”
The post also created a GoFundMe last month, and has raised $2,100 of its $100,000 goal as of press time.
“We’re not just standing around waiting for people to help us, “ DuBois said. “But now we’re asking for it.”
Despite its struggles, Post 2813 says it is grateful for its landlord, who has been generous to the organization since it moved into the 43rd street location in 2013. Rent has practically stayed the same over the years, and both parties are also working out a plan to extend the post’s lease, ending soon, to mutual benefit.
With Veterans Day right around the corner, and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I at that, the local post is urging the community to keep a piece of Sunnyside history alive.
“The local community may not feel our presence that much, but they will feel our absence,” DuBois said.
The VFW Post 2813 will hold its annual Veterans Day ceremony at John Vincent Daniels Jr. Square, located on Roosevelt Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets, at 11 a.m. It also invites members of the public to join in festivities at the locale at 1 p.m.
To donate to the post, click here.