Onaway VFW facing closure if enough new members aren’t found
ONAWAY — Without enough members or participation, the Onaway VFW post may be forced to close, officials say.
Commander Robert Skinner said currently the organization only has about five members, out of about 70, who are active and assist with projects, fundraising, and helping to achieve the missions of the group.
He said next month, the local VFW board will vote to fill its officer positions. If things remain as they are, Skinner is uncertain if there are enough active members to fill all eight seats. People are also needed to fill appointed positions, he said.
“I don’t even have enough people to make appointments,” Skinner said. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”
If all eight of the board seats aren’t filled, Skinner said it could signal the end of Onaway VFW Post 5857 and the district board would basically take control of the club and decide its future.
“They will take the funds, the building, and decide what needs to be done if you can’t elect officers,” Skinner said.
Skinner said the local chapter of the VFW could be restructured and be allowed to join with other chapters established in nearby communities.
Like many other groups, clubs, and organizations, the VFW in Onaway is struggling to recruit younger members to help take some of the burden from those who are getting older and unable to help as much as they once did. Skinner said the VFW is very particular in who it allows into the organization. He said to become a member, a veteran must have had their feet on the ground in a foreign land, during wartime.
By sheer numbers alone, that excludes most of the general population from being able to join, which limits the pool of people to recruit from. Today, the number of local veterans who served in more recent wars is less than the numbers of veterans who joined the VFW following World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War.
Skinner said if requirements for membership were eased, it might help increase membership.
“There is a smaller pool of veterans from us to draw from,” Skinner said. “I think if we had a little more flexibility it would help.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also didn’t help the club. Skinner said the group didn’t meet or gather often during the pandemic and most of its fundraising and community service programs were limited. He said the small number of active members are now doing what they can to service local veterans and provide support to the community, but the lack of manpower makes it hard.
“It’s virtually impossible to get anything done with only five active members,” Skinner said. “It is very difficult to accomplish anything. Some of the active members we do have are older and crippled up like myself and that makes it harder yet.”
The election of the officers is in April, and Skinner said more about the future of the VFW in Onaway should be known after that. He said there is an active recruiting push to attract new members and save the club.
Skinner said anyone wishing to join can contact him at 989-733-8703 for more information.