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After 57 years, the Flagler County VFW post will close; meanwhile, the Palm Coast VFW is growing.
After 57 years, the Flagler County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5213 will close its Flagler facility and consolidate its membership with the Daytona Beach unit, Post 1590.
Citing decreasing membership rates, the post will dissolve, while neighboring VFWs, like Post 8696 in Palm Coast, boast strong recruitment numbers.
With more than 1,000 veterans currently registered, the Palm Coast post added more than 50 members since last June, according to Quartermaster Patrick Donnelly. And more than 800 of its total membership base is made of lifetime members, as opposed to continuous members, who have to re-enlist annually.
“The (downward trend) started happening in the ’90s,” Joe Kowalski, former Post 5213 commander said, “because most of the World War II members were getting too old to participate.”
According to Kowalski, the Flagler County post was an all-life-member post and will close with about 80 scattered members. By consolidating instead of closing, he added, the post maintains the option of reopening some day.
With veterans currently returning from ongoing wars, Donnelly says the number of young members in the Palm Coast post is rising.
There are also a lot more female veterans than there used to be.
But, he said, “one of the things that makes it difficult for us is there is no reserve unit or National Guard unit in Flagler County.”
As for Post 5213, its members will continue working in the community, Kowalski added.
A group of officers met May 26 to decide how to spend about $8,000 remaining in its budget; $2,000 was recently donated to the Florida Agricultural Museum.
“The money that we raised is now be given back to organizations,” Kowalski said. “The money was raised here in Flagler County; it needs to stay here.”
Kowalski also planned to participate in placing flags on veterans’ graves at the Espanola Cemetery on Memorial Day, a tradition he and his post have been a part of for more than 30 years.
“This will be the last year that we’ll participate in that (as a club),” he said. “And it’s kind of sad. But true. … Things wind down. It was time.”
To register at the Palm Coast VFW, bring proof of overseas service to 47 Old Kings Road, or call 446-8696.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8696 has helped the community in many ways, according to Patrick Donnelly, post quartermaster. The general fund, for example, is used to support projects such as the Wounded Warrior Program, as well recognition dinners and service to regional veterans’ homes.
Donnelly is especially proud of the post’s relief fund, though, which was the sole beneficiary of the group’s April poppy drive. More than $2,500 was raised in the drive, benefiting struggling veterans and their families.
“We pay light bills for them. We pay water bills for them. We help them get established,” Donnelly said. “When we get members that get between a rock and a hard place … that’s what our relief fund is used for.
For more, call 446-8696.