Watch CBS News

Long Island Veterans' Halls Struggling To Stay Open After Losing Money During Pandemic

BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- On the eve of Veterans Day, there's a call to help struggling veterans' halls.

VFW and American Legion posts are in danger of shuttering because of so much money and lives lost during the pandemic.

They are more than brick and mortar. There's a soul to these veterans' posts, where, for more than a century, vets have united.

"It's a question of gathering and feeling of fellowship. It's more of a bond," said Joe Clark, commander of American Legion Post 1066.

But they are struggling. Barely hanging on before the pandemic, COVID claimed members' lives and vital revenue from banquets.

The VFW in Brentwood, built by World War II veterans, is unable to open. Water damage is everywhere, leaking from a 1950s roof.

Sabrina Lacy, an army medic, is trying to save it.

"The ceiling is leaking, and the other part is leaking from the air conditioning," she said.

"Tell me what you smell," CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff said.

"Mold. So what we are doing is gutting it," Lacy said.

They're expensive fixes that take services away from veterans.

Veterans organizations say they didn't qualify for federal recovery funds because they don't have employees. They're asking for help from infrastructure funding and the public in reviving banquet bookings.

"You'll not be only getting a great venue, but you'll be doing something patriotic and something to support our veterans," Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman said.

They also need younger veterans to join.

"I'm talking to you veterans out there. You need to come and support us and get involved," Lacy said. "We need your help but you need us also."

"It's crucial that we get new blood, right, and continue to take care of the older veterans," said Jacon Pachucki, commander of AMVETS Post 88.

Also at stake? The history that's passed on.

"From Pearl Harbor to Veterans Day to flag retirement, those are all events, if you don't have a house in order to organize and a membership ... They will eventually go away," Pachucki said.

It cost veterans under $50 a year to join these organizations, but upkeep is on the rise.

Insurance is costly, and so are safety upgrades. They also need computers and Wi-Fi.

Veterans are asking the public to help keep part of the American fabric intact.

Nationwide, 77 VFW posts closed or were consolidated since the pandemic. At least three of them were on Long Island.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.