In a sign of the times, many veterans’ clubs nationwide are seeing a membership drop. The latest to close because of the trend — the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Cobleskill — will auction off the contents of its building Saturday.
Brian Goodrich, the commander of VFW Post 5088 and a veteran of military action in Somalia, said attendance at recent meetings has dwindled to a peak of just 13 members, down from about 30 when he joined the post seven years ago.
“Some of the older members moved out of the area or died,” said Goodrich, a Carlisle resident, noting that many surviving World War II veterans are close to 90 or older.
Keeping up the building housing the post — a former garage on Elm Street — has also become a major expense for the members in recent years, he said.
Meanwhile, attracting veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan has been difficult because many of them are busy beginning their careers and being involved with their young families, Goodrich said.
“I’m one of the youngest members in my post, and I’m 40,” he said.
Items that will be auctioned include pool tables, a beer cooler, kitchen equipment, a television and games. The sale is being handled by auctioneer Thomas All of Sharon Springs. The closing will leave Schoharie County with just one veterans hall, one in Middleburgh, Goodrich said.
Tony Moore of Davenport, the president of the Oneonta Veterans Club and past commander of the Davenport VFW post, said recruiting younger members has been a challenge for veterans organizations.
“The younger guys have a lot going on in their lives,” he said. “When their children are grown, that’s when they have time to join and get involved with organizations.”
Moore, an ex-Marine who saw combat action in Vietnam, said most of those who stop in at the Oneonta club are Vietnam veterans or veterans of World War II. He noted the Davenport club’s oldest member — Al Daye — recently died at the age of 94.
One exception to the dip in membership has been at the Cooperstown Veterans Club, where Michael Boyson, the commander of the American Legion based at the club, said the organization has been able to expand its auxiliary membership by recruiting the sons and daughters of veterans.
“We’re very healthy,” said Boyson, noting the club — which includes members of the VFW and Amvets — has about 400 total members. The club also draws from a wide area, he said.