South Portland VFW closes; Thanksgiving dinner canceled

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Dwindling participation and finances have forced the closing of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 832 and forced cancellation of a longtime community tradition at the post, an annual free Thanksgiving dinner.

Cmdr. Stephen Doyle said the group had to give up its home at 50 Peary Terrace because of financial problems. Although Post No. 832 still has its charter, it lacks a permanent home.

The Peary Terrace headquarters was shared with the Maine Military Museum.

Doyle blamed lack of participation. “It takes members to keep the organization functioning,”  he said.

As a result of the post’s closing, the annual free, home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the South Portland Community Volunteers was canceled. It was held at the former VFW post for 22 years.

Volunteers are directing those who need a free Thanksgiving meal to a community dinner in Scarborough.

Lee Humiston, founder, director and curator of the Maine Military Museum, and owner of the Peary Terrace building, said the VFW “ran out of money” and notified him on June 29 that they were going to reorganize. He said the organization finally left a few months later.

Doyle said the post has 439 members on its books, but was lucky to get seven to a meeting. He said mailings to members usually resulted in significant numbers returned as not deliverable.

“We don’t find a lot of the newer people want to become members,” Doyle said. “Lifestyles have changed a lot since I joined.”

He added that young veterans coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan are often working two jobs or starting families and don’t have time to participate.

The VFW is part of the South Portland War Veteran’s Memorial Association, along with American Legion Post 35. The veterans’ groups both host the Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades and place flags on veterans’ graves, among other activities.

Doyle said the post hopes to reorganize, but so far there are no concrete plans and “nothing has come to fruition.”

He said the American Legion has stepped up and given the remaining active members a place to meet for a while, but they would like to find a new home.

Doyle called the Thanksgiving dinner” a great thing … a worthy thing,” and said he feels bad the dinner had to be canceled. He said the old post could accommodate up to 300 people.

South Portland Community Volunteers is directing those who need a free Thanksgiving meal to the annual Scarborough Community Dinner, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23, at Wentworth School, 20 Quentin Drive.

The free dinner is open to all and is hosted by the Scarborough School Nutrition Program, Scarborough Community Services, Project GRACE, Scarborough Garden Club, and others.  Transportation is available for Scarborough residents.

The traditional Thanksgiving meal will feature roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, carrots, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls, coffee, milk, cider, apple and pumpkin pies.

Donations can be made to Project GRACE at 730-4100. To volunteer time or pies, call Kelly Murphy at 883-5111.

Organizers are asking attendees to RSVP so they can make enough food. Responses can be made online at www.thanksgivingscarborough.org or by calling 730-4100.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

The former home of the South Portland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 832, at 50 Peary Terrace.

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