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Nowhere To Call Home

With help, Springfield VFW post carries on in time of transition.

When Springfield’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7327 hosted the VFW 10th District meeting Sunday, Aug. 5, the gathering had to take place at the Springfield American Legion post. American Legion Post 176 has been opening its doors to its sister organization since last fall and will continue to do so for the next few years.

The Springfield VFW post sold its last home on Kincannon Drive in Lorton and moved out last November. Property for a new building has been purchased on Beulah Street in Franconia, but construction will probably not begin there until sometime in 2009. Meanwhile, the post has been having plans drawn up, filing for permits and figuring out how to raise money to cover construction costs.

Members decided on the move because the old location was surrounded by industrial buildings, had no parking and "wasn’t meeting our needs," said Post Senior Vice Commander Chris Braun. The property on Beulah Street, on the other hand, is at the heart of a residential community. It will include a picnic pavilion and will be open for public events. Braun noted that community service is one of the VFW’s primary purposes.

The post is seeking a special exception permit from Fairfax County as it works its way through architectural and engineering plans. "We’re going to be thousands and thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before we even find out if we can build there," said Braun.

The post bought the property in Lorton almost 10 years ago for $500,000 and sold it last year for $2 million, but $1.6 million of that went to buying the 2.5-acre plot on Beulah Street. "We’re going to have to do fund raising in the community," said Braun. Bingo nights, he noted, do not pull in enough to construct a building.

He said the post is seeking 501c3 status, which "opens the door to larger, more charitable donations from corporations." The post will not begin soliciting donations until it has secured permission to build on the new site. Meanwhile, the post has temporary — and much smaller — lodgings at an office in Lorton. However, Braun noted that even in this time of transition, the post has continued to meet all VFW requirements.

"We don’t want to back off, because that’s when you start losing interest and losing members," said Post Commander Wayne Yancey. He noted that, in addition to the post’s longstanding support of the Boy Scouts, Little League Baseball, the Adopt-a-Highway program and other community groups, it has also continued to ship items to troops stationed in Iraq.

WORKING WITH the post’s Ladies Auxiliary, post members bought, packaged and shipped 16 boxes of "comfort items," including snacks, razors, shoe inserts and entertainment, to soldiers in Iraq in the last two weeks, said Yancey. The post spends no less than $500 per quarter on the effort. He said members had recently learned of a group of 400 soldiers from Virginia and Pennsylvania that was being sent to Iraq, and the post is now working to adopt that group. Currently, the post ships to two contacts from the area, each of which shares the items with the members of his unit.

Ladies Auxiliary Chaplain Diana Regan said the post likes to ship to local residents overseas so that when they return there can be a "continuation of camaraderie," as the returning troops can visit and perhaps join the post. She said the post also seeks donations from other groups to bolster the effort. "We’re presently working with some of the churches in the area, and that’s where we got a lot of our donations," said Regan, noting that churches take up collections of goods that the post picks up.