The Frankfort Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1493 held a fundraiser to “Save the VFW” on Wednesday night.
It came after months of continued efforts to raise money to keep the VFW’s doors open. When Cmdr. Stan Tylinski, a Vietnam veteran, took over leadership last summer, he learned just how dire the situation was.
“When I took over in July, we owed everybody everything,” Tylinski said.
The VFW had lost out on an annual Labor Day fundraiser that usually helped it raise almost $9,000 over the holiday weekend.
Tylinski said the local celebration has been scaled down in recent years, so the VFW no longer has that revenue stream.
Tylinski said the previous leadership wasn’t forthcoming with the VFW’s financial problems, but, he said, although he’s not sure exactly what happened, he shifted focus to just trying to dig out of the hole.
Through a lot of support, things began to turn around. Last year, a GoFundMe page for the VFW raised more than $27,000. Tylinski said it helped the site pay the mortgage for its building.
Unfortunately, the Frankfort VFW isn’t the only one worried about its financial future. The VFW Cantigny Post 367 in Joliet regularly holds Monday night bingo and a Friday fish fry. Its commander, Chuck Sheperd, was thankful the post recently got a new roof, thanks to donations from Adler Roofing in Joliet and the Roofers Local 11 union.
Sheperd noted that next year will be his VFW’s 100th birthday. It was established in 1920 by World War I veterans.
He said although the original building burned down, the current building has been in use since 1946, so it’s in need of repairs.
“The elevator works,” Sheperd said. “But a lot of people are scared to use it.”
Sheperd noted he wants to invite younger veterans to get involved and invest in the future of the VFW, since many of his members are Vietnam veterans in their 70s.
He’s tried to reach out to younger veterans and help with causes they care about.
Tylinski said now his post is doing OK, and he had high hopes for the fundraiser, but he admits the VFW has not been able to focus on what its main work is: to help veterans. He said many people don’t realize what VFWs like his do.
Local VFWs such as Cantigny and the Frankfort post have veterans come to them for help. And if the organizations can’t offer assistance, members will try to direct veterans to some other entity, such as the Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County.
“Our goal is to support veterans,” Tylinski said. “That’s our purpose.”