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Steve Potter had already submitted his American Legion renewal fee when he received surprising news. The Columbus post where he’s been a member for 15 years had closed.
Post 24, at 2515 25th St., has been closed indefinitely because of a lack of officers to run the facility. The local commander also has stepped down.
“I was stunned. I’ve been going there probably three days a week. I just gave them my $25 renewal fee for 2014, and nobody ever told me it was going to close,” 60-year-old Potter said.
The state-imposed closure, for violation of charter, was the first of an Indiana American Legion post in at least 20 years, said Bruce Drake, director of communication for the Indiana Department of the American Legion.
American Legion Post 24 will have a revitalization meeting 7 p.m. Monday to nominate new post officers.
Any American Legion member is welcome to attend. People also can attend if they are eligible to become members and sign up as members during the meeting.
Attendees should bring their most current membership cards.
The post is at 2515 25th St., Columbus.
The post had only five officers at the time it was shut down, and all five had to step down as required by the state Legion headquarters. The post will need at least 10 officers in order to reopen, he said.
Drake said he is confident that a revitalization meeting set for 7 p.m. Monday at the Columbus post will generate a hefty turnout, given that it has a membership of more than 400.
The officers who stepped down can reapply for any of the vacant officer positions. All of the positions are volunteer. The only requirement for members to become an officer is that they be in good standing with the American Legion.
“I did the mailing myself, and I’ve asked everyone to attend,” Drake said. “We want to make sure everyone understands that there can’t be an American Legion post unless enough people are willing to step forward.”
Vacant positions include commander, vice commander, finance officer and a three-person home committee. Officers chosen have to be current American Legion members to be eligible to fill any of the positions. Members can be veterans or have relatives who were veterans.
Matt Taylor, who served as commander for more than two years, was among the officers who had to resign Friday. He said the volume of work was getting to be too much anyway because of a shrinking base of officers.
Taylor said he’s unsure why so many people stopped volunteering.
American Legion Post 24 operates as a private club, which includes a bar.
“I’ve been begging people to come and help me,” Taylor said. “For one reason or
another, it just wasn’t
Drake, who did not know how long the Columbus
post has been in violation
of its charter, said state American Legion officials want the local post to get back to the point where it can make a difference in its
The state agency prefers that all of its posts take part in initiatives such as sponsoring American Legion baseball games during the summer, challenging students to learn about the U.S. Constitution, providing scholarships and teaching students how to fold an American flag.
The Columbus post for the past several years has been active in its community only by way of its color guard, which performs firearm salutes during veteran funerals, Drake said.
“That’s important, but it doesn’t help us grow the youth of America,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone in the community knows that we’re Legionnaires.”
An election date would be set during the revitalization meeting. Officers chosen would serve for nine months before another election is conducted, assuming the post can find the required 10 people for leadership roles that it needs to reopen, Drake said.
Potter, who never served in the military but became a member because his uncle served, said he would be willing to serve as an officer if it helps the American Legion reopen.
Potter never volunteered before because of the demands of his job as a self-employed excavator, he said. But he thinks he has the time to dedicate now that he is older and less busy.
He said he had just visited the bar a day or two earlier to have a drink with friends. He knew the post was struggling to find volunteers, but he had no idea the situation had grown so serious.
The Columbus post did receive a recent citation by the State Excise Police for having an employee not holding proper permits to serve alcohol, said Travis Thickstun, the agency’s public information officer, but that action had nothing to do with closing of the Legion building.
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