A Greenwood veterans organization is considering selling its building to the city and using the money to build a larger space to better serve the needs of the next generation.
Greenwood VFW Post 5864 has had its headquarters in a 6,500-square-foot building along South Washington Street for the past three decades, across from the city police station and court, but the organization doesn’t have enough room for storage, events and offices. They’re running out of space for supplies and clothing donations they collect to give to veterans in need. At weekly Bingo nights, one of the organization’s main revenue sources, they’ve had to turn people away due to a lack of space.
Now, with the city interested in purchasing the property as part of a project to expand and renovate its public works buildings, the time is right for the VFW to sell and construct a new building, post commander Steve Milbourn said.
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The sale isn’t final yet. Before any offer can be made, the city council would need to give final approval of the purchase and for the property to be used for a public works department building. Council members unanimously gave a first approval this month. Last year, the city council approved spending $7.5 million on a new public works building, which will be paid for through an increase to the city’s sewer rates.
And once the city makes an offer, members of the VFW would need to approve the sale of the property, Milbourn said.
VFW officials already have a location picked out for their new building on five acres of land on the west side of Emerson Avenue, between County Line Road and Main Street, and have made an offer on the land, Milbourn said. The property would have enough room for a 17,200-square-foot building, which would more than double the current space at 6,500 square feet, along with room to expand in the future, he said. The banquet room capacity will increase from 140 to around 270 people, and the space will have a movable dividing wall to allow for multiple events at once, he said.
The next question is how to pay for it, Milbourn said.
Under state law, the city has to pay the average of two appraisals of the VFW’s current property, which came out to $500,000, Milbourn said.
The cost of the project could range from $1 million to $1.3 million, which will include purchasing the land, constructing the building and furnishing it, Milbourn said. While the VFW will keep some its new kitchen equipment, chairs and tables, much of the interior furnishings will be purchased new, he said.
The state office of Disabled American Veterans will use 2,200 square feet of the building, and will contribute $200,000 to the construction costs, Milbourn said. The VFW also has about $150,000 saved up for the project.
The rest of the cost — about $400,000 — will come from fundraising efforts planned in the next year, which includes selling memorial bricks that will line one of the walls of the new building and seeking tax-deductible donations for the project, he said. Several VFW members with experience in construction will also be offering their services at free or reduced prices, Milbourn said. If needed, the VFW could also take out a loan for the remaining cost of the project, but the organization would plan on paying it off within several years, he said.
If the sale of the property goes through, the new VFW building could be open as soon as next fall, and doesn’t plan to move out of its current building until the new one is complete, Milbourn said.
One goal with the new building is to focus on attracting younger members to the VFW, Milbourn said.
About 75 percent of the VFW membership served in the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II, but as those members age, the VFW needs to focus on bringing in veterans from the more recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, Milbourn said.
Of the seven members on the committee in charge of designing the new building, five are younger veterans, Milbourn said.
That group has been discussing designs and ideas for the building, including specific spaces geared toward younger veterans. One new area that is planned is a day room, or a lounge space with room for pool tables, darts and other games.
Greenwood VFW Post 5864 provides services and a place to gather for U.S. military veterans.
Founded: April 1976
Location: 333 S. Washington St., Greenwood