The Manlius American Legion Post 141 at 109 Fayette St. in Manlius is at risk of closing if solutions for their debts are not met soon. (Hayleigh Gowans)
By Hayleigh Gowans
The Manlius American Legion has almost a 100-year history of being part of the community in Manlius and, recently, the organization has been looking into its options to overcome the financial stress caused by decreased membership.
Richard Shaw, commander of Manlius American Legion Post 141, said with the current amount of revenue the legion is bringing in, it is not financially possible for the group to continue to keep running and maintaining the building at 109 Fayette Street in Manlius.
“At this point we are majorly in debt and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Shaw, who has been commander for the past two years. “We do what we can do to sustain ourselves and are trying to generate revenue, but we just can’t get enough members and keep members who are active … Every week we are going further and further into debt.”
The Manlius Legion has about 300 members between three subgroups — the Veteran members, the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) and the American Legion Auxiliary.
American Legions fund themselves in large part through fundraisers, such as pancake breakfasts and fish fry dinners, and use leftover funds to provide services for veterans, their families and the overall community, said Shaw. Some community events sponsored by the Manlius American in the past have included sending youths to an oratorical contest, shooting competitions and Boys State, an event where young men learn how to be leaders in their community.
Many American Legions also get revenue through acting as a venue community members can rent for events, but Shaw said the current building’s size and lack of parking limits the amount of renters the Post can get.
Over the past few years, it has been difficult to gain new veteran members, and this decrease, combined with the aging membership losing the ability to actively volunteer to help sustain revenue, has led to the current financial distress, said Shaw.
In the face of financial distress, Shaw has had multiple meetings with his executive board to determine what the Post’s options are. The ideal situation would be that the legion can increase its revenues through organizing more events, and pay off their current debts.
Selling the current building and keeping the paper charter and raising funds to buy or rent a new building is another option that would allow the group to stay together for the time being. Shaw said getting a new, larger building with more parking space could allow the Legion the opportunity to act as a venue the community can rent for events, bringing in more revenue.
The final option — which Shaw said he hopes can be avoided — is to dissolve, and current members then can decide if they would like to join one of the other local American Legions, such as in East Syracuse or Cazenovia.
A decline in membership, and active participation from the current membership, is a situation that is not unique to the Manlius Legion, said Shaw. Though Post 141 has not officially closed its doors yet, a decision on which way to move with the organization will come soon. In the meantime, Shaw said he will work on ideas to generate new revenue.
“I think losing the American Legion here would be detrimental to the community,” said Shaw. “The American Legion supports veterans and the community.”
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features.
I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.