ROXBURY, NJ – Once a bustling hive of activity – especially on beer-splashed Friday nights - Roxbury’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post in Kenvil could soon be a thing of the past.
The members of Kenvil VFW Post 2833 will soon be deciding whether to put the building up for sale, said Jeff McDonald, a former Navy officer who is the post’s quartermaster. A group of about a dozen Post 2833 members decided recently to begin exploring such a sale pending a formal vote by the full membership, he said.
The Post has been struggling financially for years as its membership aged and young veterans showed little interest in joining and participating. But McDonald said it was COVID-19 that pushed Post 2833 to its current unhappy position: The members are unable to afford utilities and other costs involved with owning the building.
“We’ve been able to basically break even with fundraisers and some donations,” McDonald said. “But with COVID happening in March, we had to cancel our annual venison dinner.”
He said the dinner usually brings in a third of the Post’s annual revenue. The pandemic also means the veterans can’t rent the facility for parties, another source of money that's been lost.
End of a Building, Not of an Organization
“So, we made a difficult decision,” McDonald said. “The decision we made at our last meeting was to start the process to sell.”
McDonald stressed that a sale of the building will not mean an end to VFW activity in Roxbury. He said the group will maintain its VFW franchise in the township.
Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd is looking for “alternative town sites where the VFW can meet,” said Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo at this week’s Roxbury Mayor and Council meeting. “So, we may have some new news for everybody in the not-to-distant future.”
McDonald said he envisions a VFW free of the burden of owning a costly building, a structure that wasn’t really being used too often by veterans, especially Roxbury’s younger ones.
“The idea is to take the proceeds (of a sale) and put it in the bank for use at a future date, maybe purchase another home on another property if things turn around, or keep it to be used for service-oriented charities,” McDonald said. “The reason VFW exists is to serve active members, widows and orphans.”
Three years ago, members of the struggling VFW post hosted an open house in an effort to raise awareness of the facility’s plight and convince young veterans to join.
Prior to the event, there were some major renovations made to the building, which became the VFW’s home in 1977. Those improvements included upgrades to the kitchen, bathrooms, electrical system and landscaping (such as that installed several years ago by two Roxbury Boy Scouts).
McDonald said the post has about 100 members, although only about a dozen could be called active participants. When the post was opened shortly after World War I, in a different building, it had about 400 members.
“It’s been around for a long, long time,” lamented Nancy Bottona, a member of the VFW Post 2833 Auxiliary. She noted that McDonald, in his mid-40s, is one of the Post’s youngest members. Most of the Post’s members are veterans of Vietnam and Korea who are in their 60s and 70s.
“What used bring members in was the building,” McDonald said. “VFW, in general, is finding that the post isn’t what’s drawing the younger vets anymore.”
Bottona said she expects the Auxiliary’s final meeting at the Kenvil building will take place in October.
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