VFW spending $300K in renovations in effort to modernize, attract younger vets

GREENFIELD, Ind. - A Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post is getting a facelift, but leaders with the VFW hope the work will do more than give their post a modernized look.

Memberships at VFWs across the country are getting older and older. At VFW post 2693, which has about 180 members, the majority of veterans are between the age of 50 and 70.

Post commander Walter Baran said it was time to do something to attract veterans who are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. "Now’s a good time," he said. "We need to get out of the '70s and '80s look in here, get into the 21st century and get the new guys in.”

The post will renovate its dining hall and bar area by giving the room a more open feel. The plan includes work to raise the ceiling, and replace old dining tables and chairs with more modern furniture. The post will build a new gaming area and install new outlets and phone ports to make the area more technology accessible for smartphones and computers.

An outside wall will get a new coat of paint, which will include a new painting of a waving American flag. Other work includes a new parking lot across the street and making the post accessible for veterans with disabilities so that the post is compliant with current codes from the American with Disabilities Act.

“The younger guys that are being discharged after the War on Terror and Afghanistan and Iraq, this is more for them than it is for us,” said post member Ed Dennis.

Over the years, post leaders had considered other options instead of renovating. Smart spending and saving money over several years allowed the post to fund the work that should be complete sometime in June, if all goes to plan.

“We didn’t buy things that at the time we thought we needed them, we saved the money," said Baran, who has been the post's commander for nearly the last 18 months.

While the post has some younger members who have provided feedback on what they'd like to see the post have. The post does have a nearby Army National Guard with young military men and women the post would love see join the VFW. Many have shared their thoughts on what they'd like to see to convince them to get more involved.

According to Dennis, active military members have more things to occupy their time when serving compared to the time he and other VFW members served during The Gulf War and prior conflicts.

“Technology is really responsible for a lot of that," Dennis said. "Folks my age and older, as we served in the military, the camaraderie and the fellowship were so much more of our day-to-day routine because you didn’t have the technology that allowed you to be independent when you’re looking at these smartphones.”

Besides getting more active members, post leaders want new members to know what the VFW is all about.

"We don’t want to put the perception out there that people believe that’s just where the old guys want to drink and tell stories," said Baran. "We’re here to help all veterans.”

The commander said the post can be a place veterans can bring their entire families, so veterans can still have fellowship with one another and the renovations will help children enjoy their time, too.

"We do things in the community," Baran said. "We have the Clothe-A-Child program and we donate money to scholarships."

Bids for the renovations were due Monday. Post leaders will look them over during the week and hope work can begin very shortly after.