VFW Bruce Post looking for help with building repairs

Fundraising campaign seeks donations

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 6, 2021


ST. CLAIR SHORES/GROSSE POINTES — A place for comrades to gather and share war stories, for relatives to celebrate a new member of the family, for people to come together and enjoy a meal or entertainment is now in need of help from the community it supports.

A recent letter from VFW Bruce Post 1146 Commander Randell J. Shafer spells out the situation the organization finds itself in: the building is in need of a new roof, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system needs to be replaced, and there are continual improvements needed in the halls and on the grounds of the facility, at 28404 Jefferson Ave.

“The building’s been here a long time, and over the last couple of years, the roof covering that we have is starting to deteriorate,” said Shafer.

To that end, the VFW Bruce Post 1146 has begun a $500,000 fundraising campaign, beginning with solicitations of its members and then asking help from the community.

“Initially, we need to raise $150,000 for the estimates for the portion of the roof that we have to have fixed,” he said. “We’ve been patching and patching and patching, and filling the cracks and going over the parts that have deteriorated, and we just think it’s time to put forth an effort and get a new roof put on those portions.”

There are 900 veteran members of the post and more than 600 auxiliary members who are related to veterans past and present.

“Our charter is 85 years old. The charter was started when the World War I guys came back, and the World War II guys were a much larger group,” Shafer said. “They’re the ones who bought this land and built this building. The building has been here since the ’40s, and it’s been expanded and improved since the ’50s.”

Unfortunately, much of the revenue from hall rentals, Lenten fish fries, golf outings, sales in the clubroom and other small events have dried up since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the needed repairs harder to afford.

“We haven’t been able to rent any halls or have our clubroom open ... since it’s gotten cold,” he said. The post was able to rent its outdoor pavilion for events over the summer, he explained.

Shafer said the post had an $85,000 surplus in 2018, but funds had to be spent to rebuild a temporary seawall in 2019. The Bruce Post applied for, and received, some grant money that has been used to pay electric bills and insurance. In addition, Shafer said they have been cutting costs and eliminating services that are not needed without anyone using the hall. Some employees also had to be laid off.

“We’re just going week by week, month by month. We’re kind of falling behind a little bit,” he said.

Assistant quartermaster Jeff Kohlitz said the Bruce Post has always played a big role in the community.

“I have relatives that ... belonged here. This was the place to come and associate with other veterans,” he said.

Being a combat veteran himself, Kohlitz said it can be hard for non-veterans to understand what it’s like, which is why the camaraderie and support offered by the VFW Bruce Post is so important.

“This is our way to help out and augment what’s already there from other services,” he said. “It’s a little different when people have had experiences that probably only other people who have had them can understand. We’re all brother veterans.”

Membership at the Bruce Post still includes a few World War II veterans, along with veterans of Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, as well as the other conflicts in the Middle East.

Kohlitz said they help veterans who don’t know where to turn for assistance and also honor veterans who have passed away.

“We have a team that provides a ritual service for deceased veterans in St. Clair Shores and the Macomb County area that deserve an appropriate send off because they served,” he said. “I think the families appreciate it.”

Even amidst the pandemic, the ritual team was always available to help families say goodbye to their cherished veterans, adapting the service as necessary to meet restrictions during the pandemic.

Brian Leslie, of Grosse Pointe City, a member of the VFW Bruce Post ritual team who also serves on the fundraising committee, said that they participate in the Memorial Day service each year at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms.

“Even though we’re based in St. Clair Shores, we’re the nearest VFW to the Grosse Pointes,” Leslie said. “We do a number of funerals for Grosse Pointe veterans.”

Leslie said a good percentage of VFW Bruce Post members and veterans served by the post are Grosse Pointers, and he wants them to know about its services, as well. Before the pandemic, he said members would often visit senior facilities — including in the Pointes — and speak with veterans who wanted to talk to a fellow vet. Counseling, Veterans Administration referrals and loans of medical equipment are available, as well.

“We’re there to help the veterans,” Leslie said.

Shafer called the VFW Bruce Post an “unofficial community center of the community.”

“People have had graduation parties here, baby showers, birthday parties. They’ve come here with their parents, grandparents,” he said.

The post also contributes to and assists local charities, sponsors the Ronald McDonald House and local scout troops.

“We’re happy to help anybody in need in our city, not just veterans,” Shafer said.

To donate to the Capital Improvements Fund, send a check made out to the Cpl. Walter F. Bruce Post VFW #1146 to 28404 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores, MI 48081.

Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran contributed to this report.