Small space, big ideaDec 16, 2013 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Veterans groups join forces in one office, pledge improved service
Local veterans groups are combining their resources in an effort to better serve the Fremont County community.
Riverton's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3628 has rented an office downtown in cooperation with the American Legion Post 19 and the local Disabled American Veteran group.
VFW vice commander Jim Arndt said the new group already has attracted six new members since moving to the temporary Veterans Hall at 611 E. Main St., Suite No. 1.
The longtime VFW post hall on West Main in Riverton has been put up for sale.
"Everybody we talk to (asks), 'Why didn't you do this years ago?'" Arndt said. "But that's not the way things were done. Each organization wanted to do its own thing. But we were all struggling to get members."
The groups have decided to broaden their scope, inviting all veterans and their families to learn more about local activities and services available to members.
"We're here to help all veterans -- not just war vets," Arndt said. "Anyone who's served in the military -- it doesn't make a difference if it was for 60 days or 20 years -- stop in and see us. If they're having problems, we'll see what we can do to help them."
So far, he said the centrally located Veterans Hall has proved more accessible for residents.
"Yesterday we had two ladies stop in, one for financial assistance," Arndt said. "The other lady was homeless, but she had just gotten a place, and she needed some help moving furniture and stuff into her house."
He also is able to staff the office with more people, because he now can draw on volunteers from the VFW, DAV and American Legion. Before, Arndt said a handful of people did most of the office work at the VFW hall on West Main.
"Now we have 15 volunteers, so we split it up into a schedule," Arndt said. "And we have anywhere from six to nine veterans in here every day who just stop in to have coffee and visit."
The office is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Arndt said the lease for the suite costs $250 per month. The fee is shared among the three veterans groups, he added, "so it's not costing each one of us an arm and a leg."
The organizations will save money by working together in other areas, too. For example, Arndt said they will launch joint fund drives in the future, instead of sending out separate solicitations like they used to.
"We were out there trying to beat one another to the punch getting funds out the community," he said. "(We realized) if we pooled together we could do a better job."
Their next request for funding will center on money for a permanent Veterans Hall. Arndt said he and others are working on a design for a metal structure complete with a coffee shop, three offices and a meeting hall.
When the plan is complete, Arndt said he will use the document to request a plot of land from the City of Riverton or some other local entity such as the Reach Foundation.
He hopes to start work on the new building once the VFW sells its property at 1409 W. Main St. The structure on the hill was the local group's headquarters for 80 years, but members decided to put it on the market in September.
Arndt said veterans officials at the state level had recommended the local group either give up its charter, or sell the large property.
"We were spending a little over $2,300 to $2,500 a month to maintain that building," Arndt said that month. "With the number of members we have in the organization it's just not profitable."
No one had offered to buy the structure as of this month.
"It's probably not going to (sell) until spring," Arndt guessed.
"Winter time is just not a very good time to move in."
Cornerstone Group Realty is managing the sale of the 1.5-acre property.
The VFW was asking for $650,000 for the lot in September, and at that time Arndt said his broker had spoken with several people interested in the sale.
Call Veterans Hall at 463-0963.