Commander and trustee Chester Striplin of the Bay Shore American Legion...

Commander and trustee Chester Striplin of the Bay Shore American Legion Post 365 said, “Post 365 will still exist in Bay Shore, still doing the things we always do, and the Memorial Building will always be the Memorial Building.” Credit: Johnny Milano

The Bay Shore American Legion Post 365 is in the process of selling its chapter building on East Main Street, post commander and trustee Chester Striplin told Newsday.

The chapter, which has been active for more than 100 years, has secured a buyer for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building and is waiting on a closing date, Striplin said. 

Striplin declined to share details about the buyer, but said the new owner will "keep the historic attitude of the building." Despite the building's sale, he said, the chapter will be more active than ever. There is not a designated meeting place so far, but Striplin said the post "can meet anywhere." 

"Post 365 will still exist in Bay Shore, still doing the things we always do, and the Memorial Building will always be the Memorial Building,” he said.

The building is expensive to maintain, Striplin said, and the chapter needed to "downsize," especially because there's been a decline in membership in recent years. Post 365 includes 23 members, 18 of whom are active, according to the state American Legion. In 2010, the Bay Shore post had 99 members.

Bay Shore American Legion Post 365 commander and trustee Chester Striplin outside...

Bay Shore American Legion Post 365 commander and trustee Chester Striplin outside the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building. Credit: Johnny Milano

American Legion posts are primarily funded through membership dues, said New York American Legion spokesperson James Casey, as well as through any donations or fundraisers, and some rent their buildings to make money.

The Bay Shore chapter is also involved in the community, especially the local school district, offering scholarships and funding the local high school's Veterans “Wall of Honor," an electronic display where students and visitors can access information about Bay Shore veterans. Striplin said with the sale of the building, the legion will be able to do more than before, such as fund more or bigger scholarships.

Veteran halls like those run by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have long served as Long Island community spaces, although many have struggled with membership in recent years as older members die and younger veterans show a lack of interest.

“Every post probably throughout Suffolk County for the most part is concerned about membership because a lot of the guys … are dying. The guys from Iraq and Afghanistan, not a lot of them have jumped on the bandwagon for the post,” Striplin said. 

The number of veterans on Long Island has nearly halved in the last decade. Nearly 83,700 veterans lived on Long Island in 2021, representing 3.6% of the region’s adult civilian population, according to annual survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s compared with nearly 155,500 veterans in 2010, representing 7.2% of the population.

Additionally, the pandemic hit the wallets of many local VFW and American Legion halls by restricting their ability to host events, including the Bay Shore post. Since most chapters are run by volunteers, the organizations could not apply for Paycheck Protection Program funds, which granted money to businesses and nonprofits to help with employee salaries during the pandemic.

The Suffolk County VFW commander estimated in 2021 that 20 to 30 VFWs and American Legion chapters have closed in Suffolk County, with a similar number of closures in Nassau. Currently, there are 44 American Legion posts on Long Island, according to the Suffolk County commander.

“It’s a different era today. A building the size of the Memorial Building takes a lot of upkeep and it takes a lot of hands, a lot of individuals working together,” said legion member John Digilio Jr., 78, of Bay Shore. “Now as the membership dwindles, we just don't have the physical capabilities because none of us are young, and we don't have that burning desire that we did when we were in our 20s and 30s. Times basically have changed.”

Chester Striplin of Bay Shore's American Legion Post 365 takes...

Chester Striplin of Bay Shore's American Legion Post 365 takes a tour of the building that is being sold. Credit: Johnny Milano

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building was built after World War I on land donated by a local family that, with the public, funded the building's construction.

The Bay Shore American Legion Post has been active since 1919, according to Striplin. Historic plaques and other artifacts from the chapter building are being moved to the Bay Shore Historical Society headquarters on Maple Avenue. 

“The post is not dead, it is not dying. It will be around as long as we are around. And we plan to continue our programs in the community and helping veterans,” Digilio said. 

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What to expect at RNC tonight . . . Alleged DWI driver in court . . . Explaining Nassau transgender athlete ban . . . New animals at game farm

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