Local American Legion officials said they are close to securing a loan that will allow them to refurbish the Columbus Legion hall, with a hope of reopening before the end of the year.
State Legion officials took the rare step in September of closing the Columbus post because it lacked the required number of officers to perform a post’s duties. At an Oct. 11 meeting, about 60 members of American Legion Post 24 elected new officers, beginning the process of reopening the post.
Bill Parks, commander of the Legion’s 9th District, which includes the Columbus post, said the newly elected officers have generated a business plan and are working with a bank to secure about $30,000.
Parks said the post needs to purchase insurance on the building, at 2515 25th St., before it can begin any renovations.
Post Commander Rob Steinbach said he wants to move as quickly as possible to open the post and said he appreciates the help he is receiving from his fellow officers and from creditors, some of whom are forgiving what they are owed or are working with the post on payment plans.
Steinbach said that, in the next few weeks, he expects that members of the veterans organization and volunteers will perform some maintenance on the building and then clean it and update it to “bring it out of the ’70s.”
Parks said that once the post has been upgraded, officers will consider generating revenues through games such as bingo and by opening the post’s food service to the
Parks and Steinbach said that, beyond the necessary physical transformation of the building, the post’s members must change their mindset and get more involved in the community in activities for which the American Legion is known.
From sponsoring speech contests to attending burial ceremonies to recognizing law enforcement officers and educators to teaching children about flag etiquette, Parks said Legionnaires must work to win back public support.
“It’s not just sitting around the bar, drinking,” he said. “A town as big as Columbus should and could support at least two Legions.”
Steinbach said he and
his officers have taken steps
to get more involved in the community.
Some of the officers already have gone to local hospitals and nursing homes to make contact with veterans there.
“Membership is doing better than I thought it was,” he said.
Steinbach, a 26-year veteran of the Legion and former Marine Corps sniper in Desert Storm, said the local post used to have nearly 1,000 members, but membership declined to about 420 because of demographics and people joining other posts.
He said he is confident
that he can help reinvigorate the post to produce a more meaningful impact on the community.
“We’re going to get this place open,” Steinbach said.
Find out more
What: American Legion Post 24 membership meeting
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: At the post, 2515 25th St., Columbus
Purpose: Officers to give update on and seek members’ input on reopening of the post
Note: Officers will meet at 6:30 p.m.