Friday is Veterans Day but at the Brentwood VFW Hall, which organizers say provides vital services to veterans, the ceiling and roof are sagging and are in dire need of repair.
Other VFW posts on Long Island have received needed repairs in the past year amid struggling membership and revenue lost during the pandemic from renting out their halls for events. VFW posts across Long Island and the country have faced needed repairs to older buildings while struggling to recruit new, younger veteran members.
The Suffolk OTB and Jake’s 58 Casino promised a $12,500 check Thursday to the Brentwood VFW post toward a new roof, but officials said the post, which was in danger of closing a year ago, is still in need of thousands of dollars worth of repairs.
Former State Sen. Phil Boyle, who is now managing director of Suffolk OTB, said veterans should be remembered the rest of the year, beyond Veterans Day. He said aging veterans, many of whom suffer from PTSD, come to VFW halls for help, camaraderie and support.
“We can really help our veterans every day, and that's why places like this, the VFW hall in Brentwood, the American Legion Hall in your community are so vitally important. A lot of them are getting run down … [If] someone walks into this building, you'll see what it looks like. It is run down. They need help,” Boyle said. “If you can write a check to your local American Legion or VFW, great, please do it. If you can, pick up a hammer, pick up a rake, pick up a broom, help these facilities out that are so important.”
Last year, Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) led a fundraiser for the Brentwood VFW to get a new roof after he noted VFW halls across Long Island had to shut down, losing rental revenue during the pandemic.
The Brentwood VFW, which has 70 members, down from 400 members 20 years ago, was at risk of closing.
Brentwood Post Commander Sabrina Lacy said she is still working to replace the roof and make repairs to the VFW Hall. Last week, nearly 100 volunteers helped fix up the 1956 building and property, painting the outside of the building and hanging signs, but more work is needed, Lacy said. She said the building needs to be repaired to continue to help feed homeless veterans and provide outreach support and job training.
“These institutions that we have here were refuges for these people to go because they weren't well received back into the community. They still are not received back into the community,” she said. “Veterans need to join these organizations. You need to join the VFW and American Legion. There's an organization where you can find a job and you can go to school.”
State VFW officials said VFW halls throughout New York and Long Island are doing well, but many are in aging buildings and facing declining memberships as they look to attract younger members.
The New York VFW manages 340 posts throughout state and maintains a foundation for VFW posts in need of repairs, said Bob Mitchell, adjutant to the VFW.
“We struggle like a lot of fraternal organizations with memberships and we are a membership-driven organization that contributes to the viability of a post. We’re doing well in the time we’re in right now,” Mitchell said. “We have our issues like any organization and we’re fixing them. Posts are starting to show their age we’re trying to address with grants to revitalize them and it’s working.”
Other VFW posts on Long Island have been in need of repairs, including in Wyandanch and Medford. Most veteran halls have to rent out facilities on weekends to pay bills and stay operational.
The Wyandanch VFW applied for nearly $300,000 in federal funds last year through the Town of Babylon to make repairs, including to floors, ceilings and plumbing, and to replace the roof.
The Medford VFW, which was built in the 1800s, received about $15,000 in community donations to replace its roof. The VFW hall pays about $1,000 monthly in electric bills and rents out the hall every weekend, said Senior Vice Commander John Reuter.
He said the VFW has received other donations to modernize the center and attract younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, including a game room with brand new furniture and a television, equipped with a donated PlayStation 5 for kids and families.
“We’re getting the youth in here and this is for the younger generation,” Reuter said. “We’re trying to make this a family friendly post. This is not one of your grandfather’s places with drinking and smoking cigars.”