Sagging membership and escalating debt nearly forced Galveston’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 880 to permanently close a year ago, but over the past months, the post has witnessed a revival under new leadership. The post’s new commander, Dean Growcock, expects to see the trend continue.
“We’re well on the path of getting it turned around,” he said.
The post operates a bar and a kitchen, hosts concerts and rents out the hall for events, but a crucial step in resuscitating the post hinges on convincing the younger generation of veterans to join, Growcock said.
The post, founded in 1927, is the oldest in the county, but membership dropped sharply after Hurricane Ike in 2008. After the post’s current building opened in 1965, the group boasted nearly 1,000 members on the island. Most had fought in World War II and the Korean War, but by last November, the chapter had dwindled to 160 members.
At this time the post’s roster includes 140 members, Growcock said, but almost half have moved away. He and others are in the process of ascertaining how many are still living in the area and participating in the post’s functions. He estimated about 75 members are active.
To remedy the situation, the post has reached out to Texas A&M University at Galveston, which has a student veterans group. Most served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Growcock also attended a fundraiser the veterans recently hosted for the university in The Strand District.
What Growcock hopes to convey is that the post’s leadership not only wants younger veterans to join as members, leaderships is also open to their ideas for how the post should operate moving forward, he said. That includes the music the post plays inside its bar and the entertainment acts the post invites to perform.
“The Veterans of Foreign Wars has always had a stigma associated with us that it’s an old person’s group,” he said. “It’s not 100 percent true, but part of it is. A lot of the younger vets will join, but the older generation won’t adapt to new programs. We’re trying to change that.”
The post’s leadership has also prioritized financial solvency. The post’s former leaders failed to purchase flood insurance before Ike, which caused more than $113,000 in damage.
They also had faced penalties from the Internal Revenue Service. In 2008 an IRS investigation concluded that the post underreported income and didn’t keep adequate books from 2001 to 2006.
Upon assuming command of the post on Nov. 1, Growcock committed to making the post fiscally responsible. Growcock, who owns All Wholesale Carpet & Flooring in La Marque, applied his business acumen to the post. Previous leaders would spend more than they had coming in, he said. The post will no longer do that and leaders will focus on paying off the post’s remaining debt, a $6,000 credit card bill, according to Growcock.
“I’m not looking for a handout or for people to give us money,” he said.
The post’s bar manager, Michelle Jourdan, can attest to the recent changes under Growcock and the new post quartermaster, Vernon Anderson. In addition to the emphasis on welcoming younger veterans and their ideas as well as smart money management, the post is now more organized, she said.
In the past the post never had set operating hours, she said, which resulted in nothing posted outside the building to let anyone know when the venue would be open. The new leaders have now established consistency. The post is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The post will eventually stay open for Mondays, Jourdan said, but that probably won’t happen until the spring. The post, which features “Hamburger Tuesdays,” also may host another specialized day of the week to entice visitors to dine at the hall, she added.
The ultimate goal is for the post to no longer carry the impression of only being for the older generation. The post’s leaders want to establish Post 880 as a legitimate venue for everyone in the community to enjoy, Jourdan said.
“You can see that there’s definitely going to be some better things going on here,” she said.