Financial struggles have forced a New Whiteland veterans organization to move out of the building it called home for more than 30 years.
The New Whiteland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6978 has moved from the post on Main Street in Whiteland into a building less than half the size until the members can save enough money to construct a new post.
“We didn’t want to move. We all loved it there. It broke everybody’s hearts,” VFW Commander Eddie Bullock said.
The organization had to sell the former building because fewer veterans spend time at the post, buying alcohol and food, and the post could not afford to pay utility bills while also paying off a loan it took out to cover penalty fees for past due taxes, Bullock said.
In recent years, the post has made about a fifth of the money it used to make off food and beverage sales, Bullock said.
“It was when the bottom dropped out of the economy. We used to have really big bingos with 100 people or so. Now they’re down to less than 30,” Bullock said.
He added the organization is not gaining new members among younger veterans because they are busy with their families and don’t have time to join the VFW.
“We’ve got to keep it open for them,” Bullock said. “They think it’s not important to them right now, but when they get older, then they’ll come to us asking for help.”
The 5,000-square-foot building at 740 Main St. was put up for sale, and Bailey and Wood Financial Group bought it in August. The mortgage lending company wanted a larger space for its main office, according to owner Mike Wood.
Bullock said the new VFW post is on Tracy Road in New Whiteland and will open when remodeling is finished, hopefully by the end of December.
The organization is leasing the building for five years and wants to save enough money during that time to construct a new building, he said.
The VFW still plans to raise money for and support local schools and sports teams and participate in community events, such as a Christmas event at Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis.
The New Whiteland VFW has about 400 members who served in the military and about 500 members who are related to someone who served in the military, Bullock said.
The members pay dues to the VFW, but most of the money from the dues goes to the national organization, with $5 a year per member going to the local post.
Because the organization does not make much money in membership fees, he said, the VFW relies on revenue from selling alcohol and food to members at the post.
The drop in sales revenue left the organization unable to pay utility bills while also paying off a loan. Bullock said the organization had taken out the loan to pay off penalty fees it received for not paying taxes for a year.
More than 10 years ago, income, sales and beverage taxes for the post were not paid for one year, Bullock said. The organization did not report the incident to police.
The organization’s tax records are not open to the public, and Bullock did not want to disclose how much money wasn’t paid in taxes, the penalties or the loan the post took out to pay the late taxes.
The VFW paid off the loan this year but was unable to remain in the building because of the decrease in revenue and not having enough money to afford the bills.
“It took every bit of money we had to get caught up, and we still didn’t have enough to pay the bills,” Bullock said.
He said the post is using money from the sale of the former post to remodel the new building. The new building is less than 2,000 square feet and will include a canteen and meeting area.
In the former building, the VFW had a banquet hall that was rented to local groups. The organization will not have a full kitchen to serve food because the members do not want to spend extra money to build it, Bullock said.
He said the members do not want to spend a lot of money to remodel the building because they plan to construct a new building when their lease ends.
“We should save quite a bit every year because of all the decreases in utilities and no loan,” Bullock said.