FAIRBORN — Fairborn’s American Legion Post 526 may close its doors after 96 years of serving the community.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Post Commander Chuck Knaub said. “We’re hoping to stimulate enough interest [to raise funds]. I’d hate to be the guy who lets it down after all those who came before me.”
A lethargic economy, shifting demographics and the 444 highway corridor closure that formerly brought traffic down Broad Street from points south of town, have all worked to wear down what was once an active and thriving organization.
Income from food and drink sales, as well as rental fees for the banquet hall, used to support the day-to-day operations with money to spare. Today, however, the post can barely make ends meet and often suffers a shortfall month where income is far outweighed by outgo. While Post 526 hopes to add more members, particularly from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base community, Knaub said it is struggling to get current members to walk through its doors.
The American Legion is a national organization that aims to promote Americanism and veterans. American Legion officials are also able to point veterans in the right direction in receiving benefits, and Knaub said it was instrumental in creating the G.I. Bill. On a local level, Post 526 involves itself in the Fairborn community, such as during the Fourth of July Parade and other events. The American Legion Post 526 Hall serves as a center for community organizations to meet as well as a shelter for veterans to meet and exchange war stories.
After meeting recently with bank officials to prevent the legion hall from foreclosure, it managed to gain some “breathing room.” Knaub said Post 526 finds itself in need of “ready cash to implement a new marketing scheme.”
“We are asking all post, auxiliary and SAL members and their families, as well as local businesses and the community, to join with us in raising funds to continue to operate our post and provide the programs and services that our community has come to rely on for the past 90 years from the Dignam-Whitmore American Legion Post,” Knaub said. “We hope everyone will donate something.”
All donations coming into the post from this fundraising effort will be recognized on a new “Stakeholder” Plaque that will be displayed in the post, which is also offering several donation incentives:
• Donations of $25 will be recognized by a Post 526 Challenge Coin.
• Donations of $125 will receive next year’s dues free.
• Donations of $1,000 will receive free use of the hall for an event.
• Donations more than $5,000 will receive a paid life membership in Post 526.
• All persons contributing will be entered into a drawing for a large-screen TV.
All donations are tax deductible. If individuals do not qualify for American Legion membership (they are not a veteran or related to a veteran) the free membership can be transferred to someone who is eligible to join. Knaub said sizable donations will receive accountable recognition. Check or money orders should be made out to American Legion Post 526, with “Save the Legion Fundraiser” on the comment line.
The Challenge Coin includes specific Fairborn-related elements. Knaub said even if Post 526 ultimately closes its doors, those who made a $25 donation will still have the Challenge Coin as a keepsake. It hopes to raise $50,000 and will host the fundraiser until Fairborn’s Fourth of July events.
“We want to be a good community partner,” he said.
While it received help from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and the community, Knaub said the American Legion Post 526 spearheaded the efforts it took to construct the veterans memorial, located at Central Avenue and Main Street, approximately 28 years ago. It hosts the local Veterans Day assembly at the memorial each year, bringing together local military-related entities to remember those who served and hosts a dinner at the hall afterword.
Knaub is proud of Post 526’s involvement with the local school district. It feeds the football team and band each year, participates in Fairborn High School’s ROTC program and assists Baker Middle School eighth graders as they place flags on gravestones and sing patriotic songs for Veterans Day.
It assists the VFW in the Byron Cemetery Memorial Day ceremony and hosts its own at the Fairfield Cemetery. It also helps with the 9/11 remembrance event at Calamityville, hosts charitable bingo and assists in providing graveside honors for veterans who have passed away.
For more information, contact Knaub at 937-878-3831 or Chiefknaub@aol.com.
Whitney Vickers can be reached by calling her directly at 937-502-4532. Facts provided by American Legion Post 526.