VFW marches on

By on March 11, 2015

New officers look to get local post back on track

LR VFW OPEN Lititz Springs 001Lititz Springs Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1463 is open.

An internal three-month investigation and audit turned up no wrong-doing, post officials said Monday.

The post received clearance to reopen Thursday, Feb. 26 from state and district VFW headquarters, Andrew Kneuker, Post 1463’s newly-elected commander, said.

The Pennsylvania VFW headquarters in Harrisburg removed all officers and imposed a 90-day shutdown announced in a letter dated Dec. 8.

The club opened a week before the mandated reopen date, which pleased Derek Hummer, the newly appointed adjutant and sergeant at arms.

“We’ve been closed for too long, it’s so great to see familiar faces,” Hummer said Monday afternoon at the post, located at 14 N. Spruce St.

Eligible voting members elected a new board at the Feb 26 meeting. The board decided not to reopen until Saturday, Feb. 28.

Post 1463’s members, including non-voting social members and the ladies auxiliary, were invited to a meeting before the post officially reopened it doors.

Besides Kneuker, the new Post 1463 officers are Senior Vice-Commander Greg Ludwig, Junior Vice-Commander Joseph Sebelist, Quartermaster Wade Hall, Judge Advocate Bruce McCullough, and Chaplain Ed Fox.

The Lititz VFW reopened Feb. 28 after a three month shutdown imposed by the state VFW. (photo by Pat Burns)

The Lititz VFW reopened Feb. 28 after a three month shutdown imposed by the state VFW. (photo by Pat Burns)

New officers on Monday refused to discuss the specifics of why Pennsylvania VFW stepped in to close the post.

“It’s a private club and it’s a private matter that’s been resolved,” Kneuker said.

“We’re back open for business,” said Sebelist. “They found no reason to keep the post closed.”

“There were no violations, no laws were broken, there’s no missing money,” Kneuker said.

The kitchen remains closed until the post “realigns its focus in that area” Kneuker added.

John Getz, state quartermaster, confirmed Tuesday that Post 1463 received permission to reopen.

Getz once again refused to discuss why the Pennsylvania VFW closed Post 1463. However, he said it would be closed again if operated as a “bar.”

“We don’t believe in bars, we believe in VFW posts,” he said.

Getz did not elaborate, but reinforced the principle that the VFW’s priority is to first unite veterans to do philanthropic work before the organization’s bar-restaurant business operations.

Getz went on to say the post has always performed its philanthropic work as part of every “VFW’s mission.”

The club maintained all of its charitable fund-raising commitments &tstr; including making good on its three-year $25,000 pledge to the Warwick Community Ambulance Association &tstr; during its three month shutdown, Kneuker said.

The state VFW will monitor the post during a one-year probation period, according to Getz.

“We’ll just try to help them along,” he said. “We will do inspections and attend meetings to make sure rules are followed properly.”

The new board is taking its time on a restructuring schedule, though Kneuker is anxious to reopen the kitchen, which will be operated “in-house.”

Like most VFW posts in Pennsylvania, Lititz Springs 1463 relies heavily on gambling revenue &tstr; from its Thursday night bingo and “pull-off tickets” sold at the bar &tstr; to fund its many charitable donations.

While pull-off ticket sales have resumed, Thursday night bingo has not.

As a private club, Post 1463 allows smoking per Pennsylvania law.

Just prior to the mandated closure, the post had been torn by sparing factions that differed on a smoking policy which had vacillated between banning smoking and allowing it.

Most recently, there was a short-lived smoking ban beginning Oct. 1 &tstr; pushed by former commander Rich Mellott &tstr; that lasted only about six weeks. Prior to that vote, the club had allowed smoking since its original charter in 1932.

Justin Bailey, the former senior vice-commander who managed the day-to-day operations of the club, said the social members and many veterans favored smoking at the club. Bailey promoted the reversal, and club members voted 17-8 to lift the smoking ban on Nov. 14.

The vote to reinstate smoking angered some members, including Bill Thomas, VFW 1463 quartermaster, who stepped down from his post.

Just prior to the shutdown, a post member reported a dispute among factions during a vote for a new quartermaster.

Officers Sebelist and Hall said the closure is in the rearview mirror and likened the post’s reopening to a long-idled automobile.

“We’re getting the administration set up and starting out in first gear,” Hall said.

“We’re not rushing things,” Sebelist added. “It’s like a car that’s been sitting for tree months, you need to get the oil flowing.”

Kneuker said he was encouraged by the number of post members who’ve renewed their 2015 memberships. The membership renewal process stalled while the post was closed at the end of 2014.

“We also encourage all members to come in and renew,” he said.

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455. 

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