The Jasper VFW Post 673 has settled into its new home taking up a portion of the former Polo Room in the basement of the Ewing Properties building at 3131 Newton Street.
Citing the cost of maintaining and operating the nearly 10,000 square foot building a few minutes south of the new location near the entrance to KlubHaus 61 with the consistently dwindling number of members, Post leaders made the decision to sell the building in 2016.
At the time, there were about 430 members but that number has continued to dwindle and is now down to about 380 members largely made up of veterans of the Vietnam War.
According to Larry Vollmer, president of the house committee, the new location is great due to the cost savings that will allow the post to continue to serve local veterans of foreign wars.
“The old building wasn’t insulated very well and it’s an old building,” he said. “The utilities were killing us.”
By moving into a lease rather than owning a building, the post will be able to save money. Added to the money from the sale of the building, the savings will be used to continue to remain in operation for many years.
The new owner of property, OJAI Development LLC, allowed the VFW to continue to operate in the building until the end of 2018 while they were seeking a new place. Late in 2018, the leadership received a tip about the Polo Room being available.
According to Vollmer, the Polo Room was too big for their needs but the owners agreed to put in a wall to accommodate the post.
“We moved in right at the end of the year,” Vollmer said.
The new location has a bar and a new pizza oven was purchased to continue to offer pizzas on top of sandwiches like hamburgers and strombollies.
“Everyone is pretty happy with the new location,” Vollmer said. “We will be able to keep the lease for years with the cost savings.”
The leadership is hopeful the new location will attract new members. Member of the military can only join if they have served in a war. Veterans of Desert Storm and the Iraqui and Afghanistan conflicts are eligible to join.
“These younger veterans need to understand that we lobby for their benefits,” Vollmer said. “The legislators won’t listen to us unless we are a large group.”
Vollmer pointed out the efforts of veterans that led to the building of the new VA hospital in Evansville. “They wouldn’t have done that without all the veterans complaining about having to drive to Louisville or Marion, Illinois for their appointments,” he said.
Programs like the GI Bill and expanded veteran medical benefits have come about because of lobbying efforts by the VFW, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans organizations. Memberships in these organizations empower them to continue to fight for military veterans’ benefits.
The new location is open from 2 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. While membership is required most days, eight days a month, the VFW is open to the public.