GREENFIELD — The local American Legion post needs a new home and is eyeing the Hancock County Memor- ial Building.
This week, Kurt Vetters, communications officer for Greenfield’s American Legion, asked the county commissioners to consider finding a gathering space for local veterans.
The Dale E. Kuhn American Legion Post 119 shuttered its doors at 278 Center St earlier this year, citing dwindling membership, leaving the group with no place to call home.
In the meantime, the group has met at the local Elks and Moose lodges, but it’s imperative they find a permanent place to hold meetings, Vetters said.
He asked the board of commissioners to consider allowing the group to meet in the basement of the Hancock County Memorial Building, 98 E. North St. Currently, two local groups, KidsPlay Inc and the local Court Appointed Special Advocates, utilize space in the memorial building basement. Vetters said he plans to work with those leaders to see if arrangements can be made to share the space.
The Memorial Building was constructed in the 1920s to serve as a memorial and gathering space for young men who had served their country in war, but in recent years, it’s become home to a smattering of organizations that had no place else to go. Until recently, the building wasn’t handicap accessible.
Earlier this year, the county added a wheelchair ramp and chair lift to the three-story building to make it more accessible, especially for veterans who visit the the county’s veterans services office, located on the first floor.
Vetters told the board it seemed natural for the American Legion to move into the memorial building, especially after accessibility was improved.
“Ultimately, the building was built for my peers and (me),” Vetters said. “Bottom line: we don’t have a home.”
The local American Legion has faced financial problems in recent years that have forced members to give up their meeting spaces twice.
In 2013, the legion was forced to vacate its home at 275 Center St. in Greenfield as the result of a foreclosure. The group moved across the street to 278 Center St. and rented a store front of Center Street Shoppes until last summer, when the group moved out, citing rent it could no longer afford.
The group has about 350 members who pay dues annually, Vetters said, but very few come to regular meetings, and the numbers have decreased since the post moved out of its former home at Center Street Shoppes.
The board of commissioners agreed the proposal sounds like a good idea, but members said the groups who use the basement need to find a way to share the space, so no organization is displaced.
Commissioners Brad Armstrong and Marc Huber agreed using the memorial building to host veterans meetings would be an ideal use for the space since that’s essentially the activity it was built for.
“Obviously, we want to support the veterans,” Huber said.
Vetters agreed to come back to the board of commissioners with a concrete proposal once he’s had a chance to meet with organizations housed in the basement of the Memorial Building.