NEW PALESTINE — Standing in the center of the partially constructed memorial, his work boots sinking in the gravel, local builder Dave Mummert looked around at the unfinished project and shook his head in disappointment.
He’s volunteered his construction skills, countless hours of hard work and funds — as have dozens of members from American Legion Post 182 in New Palestine — but work on the Southern Hancock County Veterans Memorial has stalled amid fundraising woes.
It’s been a little more than a year since Post 182 members broke ground on the veterans memorial, scheduled to be built in Sugar Creek Township Park in three phases. Now, post members are turning to the community in hopes of garnering support for a project more than a decade in the making. The first part of the project has cost about $40,000 so far, but the funds to complete the memorial — around $200,000 — are nowhere in sight.
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“It’s tough because we’d really like to get this done for our service men and women,” Mummert said.
Legion officials have been able to complete most of the first phase — which consists of building walkways, a center obelisk, flagpoles and upright columns dedicated to the five Armed Forces — with money from the post’s general fund, post commander Ron Ordelheide said. The Legion wants to raise another $40,000 to $50,000 to keep the project moving forward.
They’re asking community members for donations and also are selling commemorative benches and granite bricks to help raise funds. Bricks and pavers will be engraved with the military conflict involved, the veteran’s name, rank, military affiliation and service dates.
“But we know selling bricks isn’t going to cut it,” post member Joe Hawkins said, citing the need for corporate sponsorship.
Hawkins, 85, served in the U.S. Army from 1948 to 1969. He is among post members who hope to see the completion of a local memorial that would pay tribute to all who served from the American Revolution to the present. Legion members have been working to create the memorial since 2002.
They secured the land for the project at the park a few years ago and have been trying to raise funds ever since.
The second phase of the project calls for the construction of various smaller memorials dedicated to all major U.S. conflicts. Legion members envision interactive stations that will enhance the educational aspect of the memorial.
“We’d like to map out a marker in there for each conflict,” Ordelheide said.
Phase III of the project includes constructing a stage area on the west side of the memorial, where local students can perform and entertain.
But without a serious boost in funding, that’s a pipe dream for now.
“We’re broke,” said post member Bob Robertson.
Robertson, 76, is a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1958 to 1964. He’s one of many Post 182 members who have been working several years to get the project completed. He’s had his heart broken watching several of his fellow veterans pass away before getting the chance to see the finished memorial, he said.
“We feel bad that it isn’t done, but we’ve decided we’re going to do this job right or not at all,” Robertson said.
A firm date for completion of the project has not been established, but Ordelheide said legion members would like to complete the second phase by year’s end.
If weather cooperates, they plan to pour concrete so visitors can walk around the project within the next few weeks.
Supporters of the Southern Hancock County Veterans Memorial, which is under construction, can purchase a number of commemorative items to help fund the $200,000 project.
Granite polished/engraved bricks and small pavers: $100
Granite polished/engraved large pavers: $150
Memorial benches: $2,500
Memorial items will feature details including the veteran’s name, rank, branch of service and service dates.
Donations may be sent to the Hancock County Community Foundation, 312 E. Main St., Greenfield, 46140, American Legion Post 182, P.O. Box 299, New Palestine, 46163.
Supporters may also donate online at giveHCgrowHC.org or np182.ecwid.com.
For more information, contact the post at 317-604-7741.