The Groves-Walker American Legion Post 346, at 31775 Grand River Ave., is in jeopardy of losing its building due to financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Groves-Walker American Legion Post 346, at 31775 Grand River Ave., is in jeopardy of losing its building due to financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Pandemic puts American Legion in jeopardy of losing building

Community fundraiser created to help subsidize costs

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published August 11, 2020

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FARMINGTON — The latest on the list of those hard hit financially by COVID-19 is the Groves-Walker American Legion Post 346.

Rumors of the post’s financial hardships surfaced on Facebook July 16, and Legion Cmdr. Marya Davis confirmed those rumors a day later, writing, “Yes, we were hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions. Like many other local businesses, without income it is hard to pay the bills. But we have not given up the ship!”

The biggest financial toll has been the lack of bookings for their two rental halls, which Davis said in a followup interview is their “primary source of income.”

“The pandemic has devastated us on rentals,” said Sons of the American Legion Cmdr. Eric Welter, who handles rental hall bookings. “We’ve been able to do a few, because they’ve been within the 50-person parameter, and we’ve done open houses, which are good because it’s not a party where everyone is there at one time.

“It was looking like a good season, and then, ya know, COVID-19 hit, and the season just went down.”

Those who had reservations for the rental halls have kept them until next year, Welter said, which will provide some revenue down the road, but it doesn’t help much currently.

As of July 31, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer amended her MI Safe Start plan and executive order 2020-160 to state indoor gatherings of people are limited to no more than 10 people throughout the state, which will likely further inhibit the Legion’s ability to book events in their space.

Monthly utilities for the building are about $3,000, Davis said. Currently, the Sons of the American Legion and the Auxiliary — two separate arms of the organization — have been paying the bills. The Legion invested $10,00-$15,000 into building improvements before the pandemic hit.

“All of a sudden, poof, our cashflow was gone. That was a bit of an impact on us,” Davis said.

 

Here comes the community
With a number of community members stepping up to help support the Legion through private donations, Davis said she thinks the Legion can stay afloat through October, though beyond that, the future is still uncertain.

Dan McGrath, a former Farmington Legionnaire who now resides in Cape Canaveral, Florida, also stepped in to help after hearing of the news on Facebook. McGrath created a GoFundMe page, which had raised $2,079 of its $15,000 goal as of Aug. 7. View the GoFundMe at gofundme.com/f/save-our-american-legion-post-346.

“I just can’t see it going under. It would be a shame. They’ve been a bedrock in Farmington. They’ve been a staple for that town,” McGrath said. “So many charitable works they’ve done and good stories they’ve had over the years.”

If McGrath’s GoFundMe were to reach its goal, Davis said that would provide the Legion with an additional five months of funding.

Beyond that, the Legion’s bartenders have started to work for no pay — though Welter said the community has been generous with tips — and the organization has begun a Queen of Hearts Progressive Raffle at 7:15 p.m. every Monday through Oct. 12. Raffle tickets cost $1, and 50% of the proceeds stay with the Legion. They can be purchased 4-9 p.m. weekdays at the Legion or via Venmo at 346queen@gmail.com.

 

Hard times, heartbreaking deliberations
Hard times often cause organizations to have hard, sometimes heartbreaking conversations. For the Legion, that means talking about what happens if they have to sell the building.

“We’ve examined multiple paths. I researched selling the building, which was really hard,” Davis said. “It’s just heart wrenching for many people who have been here so long, and it would mean renting someplace, maybe a storefront, which many American Legions do.

“The (Legion) can survive without the building, but it’s historical, and I think it would be devastating.”

Post 346 has been part of the greater Farmington community since 1923. The organization is known for several commemorative events, such as the Memorial Day parade and the Sept. 11 Remembrance Ceremony. The Legion is located at 31775 Grand River Ave.

“It’s like having a home where you can come in and you know it’s yours,” American Legion Chaplain Andy Machcinski said. “At a storefront, it’s one of those inanimate things where you walk in, but you know it’s not yours. … This is a gathering spot. It all starts here.”

Losing the building would impact more than the veterans who are members, Davis said.

“It’s (also) about the families who are there to support the veterans, so they can do what they do. The families have also sacrificed tremendously,” she said. “For us to provide this safe spot to commune with likeminded people and give back to the families as well as the veterans, I think is really important.”

Losing the building, Davis and Machcinski said, would result in the loss of tradition and connections.

For more information, visit americanlegionpost346.org.

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