Belfast VFW needs your help getting a new building or area veterans and the community could suffer
BELFAST, Maine (WABI) - The Randall-Collins VFW in Belfast is falling apart.
From transportation, to groceries, to making oil and utility payments...
The VFW provides help and a sense of community to veterans.
But they’re sinking all of their money into a building they can no longer maintain, which is restricting their impact.
“We’ve been doing so much with so little for so long, we now feel we’re capable of doing anything with nothing. We can not put more money into the building without just throwing it away,” said Jim Roberts, the Operations Manager for the Randall-Collins VFW.
Thousands of dollars have been poured into the repair costs but the building is beyond repair.
Here are some of the concerns in the building from Roberts:
“So right now our bathrooms are out of service because all the pipes are frozen. We can’t get the sink to drain we can’t get the toilet to flush.”
“There’s literally a hole in the floor. Even though we’ve put wood and insulation on it, it keeps going through because the wood under here is rotting.”
“Our building sways, when you’re sitting at the cantina you can actually feel the building moving in minimum wind.”
“And when the wind blows our (ceiling) tiles come out. Because the wind comes right through the attic and it pulls the tiles out.”
Even after repairs, often times those fixes don’t last long.
“Even though we had a new roof two years ago, it separated and we still have leakage coming in on the walls,” said Roberts.
But getting a new building is easier said than done, especially when saving money is near impossible.
“Every penny that we get goes right back into the building, we have no overhead, there’s nobody that gets paid here,” said Roberts.
They were lucky recipients of a Paycheck Protection Program loan last year to help with utility payments.
“It shows that were 85% off last years revenues because we can’t get out and do fundraising,” said Roberts.
Restrictions from Covid-19 mean that they’re losing tens of thousands in fundraising opportunities.
They have managed to pool together almost $125,000 in savings, but it’s taken about a decade to do so.
And an engineer is estimating that’s far off what they need for a new building.
“He gave us our initial numbers, those numbers aren’t solid yet but he’s looking at $375,000. We’re a third of the way there, we need to pick up another $250,000. We’d like to be able to have our building done and not have any debt,” said Roberts.
And that wish won’t come true if they have to take out a mortgage.
“We absolutely have to have a new building but a mortgage payment will cut our services,” said Roberts.
The VFW in Belfast is a lifeline to area veterans.
But they go beyond just helping veterans with their basic needs.
“For example we did a Christmas is for Kids for local kids. And we had 70 children that we sponsored and a lot of people, myself included took money out of their wallet to make that program successful,” said Roberts.
Sinking their savings into this nearly 100-year-old building or spending $375,000 on a new one could mean an end to these programs and veteran assistance.
Two different food pantries also work out of there.
One that serves folks twice a month, and another that serves their furry companions.
“People rely on us. Before we moved here we looked into renting a space. We don’t have any money, so you can’t rent a space without money,” said Tanya McGray
Director of the No Greater Love Food Pantry.
The food pantry provides for more than 100 families regularly.
Both of veterans and other folks who could just use a little help.
“That has become more than important, it’s become a necessity,” said Roberts.
Like the VFW, the food pantry can’t keep operating in this older building.
“We need to run air conditioners in here in the summertime but we can’t run air conditioners because it pops all the circuit breakers,” said McGray.
Last summer the pantry lost more $1000 of meat because a power outage spoiled everything in their freezers.
“Today we came in and...the pipes are frozen, we don’t have access to a bathroom today. It’s just such an old building, it’s literally falling in around us. It needs to be replaced. I mean it’s a home for vets, it’s a home to us, it’s a home to the pet food pantry as well,” said McGray.
Which also provides litter and other pet necessities to more than fifty households a month.
They too aren’t sure how much longer they can keep it up.
“Unfortunately not too much longer, as you can see we’re bursting at the seams. So a new building or new space to us would be able to almost double the amount of folks were able to assist every month,” said Heidi Blood of the Waldo County Pet Food Pantry.
For area vets, pets and those who need help, losing these pantries could have dire consequences.
“They would go hungry. I truly believe they would go hungry,” said McGray.
So the VFW is looking for support from the public, so they can give it back to those who need it most.
“We’re here to help everybody and we’re hoping everybody can help us just a little bit, we’ll be able to continue our mission,” said Roberts.
Jim Roberts says there has been a lot of community financial support including $10,000 from the Stephen and Tabitha King foundation.
But they still need $250,000 to build their new building and avoid a mortgage.
If they go into debt, a lot of these services will end.
There’s a GoFundMe account for folks interested in chipping in.
You can find it here.
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