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Post Development/Revitalization Success Stories

Edgar and Clark counties, Illinois. In November 2012, Department of Illinois Legionnaires joined with national staff in a revitalization effort spanning two counties. Working out of Paris Post 211 in Edgar County, six posts assisted in the effort. During the revitalization, 188 letters were sent out, while volunteers and staff made more than 150 visits or phone calls to homes. Fifteen new members joined, while another 35 were transferred from Headquarters Post 2910 into local posts.

Putnam, LaSalle And Bureau counties, Illinois. In October 2012, Department of Illinois Legionnaires joined with national staff in a revitalization effort spanning three counties. The focus of the effort was transferring headquarters post members and expired members into local posts. Before the effort, more than 750 letters were sent to 750 such Legionnaires, making them aware of the membership effort and that an open house – complete with a Legion service officer – would be taking place. The effort also received coverage through media press releases to the local newspaper and radio station. More than 350 contacts were made, either via the phone or by going door to door, and the effort results in 82 transfers/renewals and 12 reinstatements.

Districts 11 and 12, California. In September 2012, teamwork led to a huge success at a pair of recent district revitalization efforts in California. With the combined efforts of national staff, department and district leaders and local Legionnaires, more than 400 members – either new or department headquarters members – were transferred into local posts in the department’s Districts 11 and 12.

The three-day revitalization efforts, which took place simultaneously at American Legion Post 16 in Stockton and Post 74 in Modesto, were a combined effort of national staff and 46 volunteers from the department, district and post level. Each day, Legionnaires stood ready at each post for anywhere from four to nine hours, ready to answer questions about the Legion and what it does for veterans, servicemembers and their families. An American Legion service officer also was available one of the days to answer questions about VA benefits and claims.

Advance preparation was one of the keys to the successful effort. Prior to the event, more than 3,800 letters were sent out to former members, headquarters post members and eligible veterans in the two communities, letting them know that Legion staff would be available to answer questions. The revitalization efforts also were promoted in local newspapers, as well as on local radio stations and public television.

Janet Wilson, the Department of California membership chairman, said having the lists of department headquarters post members, as well as the advance promotion of the events, were keys to their success. Wilson also liked the training that was provided to volunteers who were making phone calls to former and current members, as well as eligible veterans.

"Some people learned how to do telephone work, from listening in to others and finding out it was easy than they thought," Wilson said. "Once the members started getting the first one, the others were so much easier. We all know why we donate our time and energy to the Legion, but asking a stranger on the phone without sounding like a sales call is hard for some."

Some headquarters post members were transferred into outlying posts that didn’t have representatives working in the revitalization efforts. But Walt Butler, Area 3 membership chairman, and 12th District Commander Jodi Griffin will be visiting those posts personally to provide information and training on transferring members from the headquarters post. Department Commander Ken Kramlich, National Executive Committeeman Al Lennox and 11th District Commander Tino Adame assisted in the Post 16 efforts. And after both efforts, a combined 14 Legionnaires and Auxiliary members qualified for the National Commander’s Pin.

"We worked as a team, having a good time in the process," Wilson said. "I think having put more than 400 members into local posts is the cherry on top."

Post 18, Springfield, Vt.: Post 18 had been inactive for 16 years, but in September, a team of department personnel that included Department Commander Royal Scheeley, Senior Vice Commander Edward Brown, Legion College graduate and county commander Robert Cassidy, Past Department Commander Dick Farmer, and National staff conducted revitalization activities. These included recruiting new post members, electing post officers, and conducting a social and orientation meeting. A list of prospective members was developed using an expired and active headquarters members roster, with additional referrals provided by the new members. A local cable-TV community access station assisted in revitalization efforts by airing a special segment about American Legion-sponsored programs, services and activities. The TV spot also included the date, time and place for Post 18's first social and orientation meeting. The effort resulted in 12 new members and eight headquarters post transfers. The post is now conducting scheduled meetings in Springfield's community center, under Farmer's leadership.

Post 20, Brunswick, Maine: Post 20 has no post home and hadn't had a meeting for 18 months. So when Department Senior Vice Commander Daniel Ayotte, experienced membership volunteer Bob Morrill and National staff began conducting revitalization activities, they recruited new members by going door to door and establishing contact with all expired members, including headquarters post members. Referrals from newly signed members were used to develop a prospect list for recruiting additional members. After a solid membership recruiting drive, a post social and orientation meeting was conducted for all interested post members and their families. During the meeting, new members received information about various post officer responsibilities, as well as information on American Legion programs, services and activities. The effort resulted in the post getting eight new members, seven transfers and 11 renewals.

Post 196, Myrtle Beach, S.C.: The efforts of the Department of South Carolina and national staff members proved to be a great success in the creation of a new American Legion post in Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach, with a population of over 30,000 veterans, previously had no American Legion post within a 40-mile stretch of the beach line. Prior to arriving, national staff mailed out more than 2,000 letters to delinquent and headquarters post members who reside within the five ZIP codes of Myrtle Beach. The membership effort also received publicity in the community newspaper. The Myrtle Beach Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans donated their building for Post 196 to meet in; the building also served as the site for an open house/social, featuring two county service officers, on the second night. Two teams spent the days combing through the delinquent memberships. Despite adverse weather conditions, more than 250 attempts by phone or door-to-door canvassing were made. Most of the headquarters post members who were reached became charter members of the new post. A total of 27 members were signed up to Post 196; a majority of them were from the Vietnam War era or were younger veterans. Several of the new members have expressed an interest in filling officer roles and were provided guidance on available positions. In addition to national staff, Department of South Carolina Legionnaires took part in the effort, including Department Commander Bud Hennis, Department Second Vice Commander Mickey Taylor, and Legionnaires Perry McCory and Craig Wise.

Posts 564 and 278, Warren, Ohio: Both had been viable posts in what was once a community of 72,000. During the better part of the prosperous manufacturing years of the 1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s, the posts were active in providing services to veterans and their families and in sponsoring a Legion Baseball program. Warren's population declined, due to lack of employment opportunities. With an unemployment rate at 25 percent, it dwindled to less than 42,000. The memberships at Posts 564 and 278 had dropped along with it. Realizing that Warren had retained a good veteran population, the community was selected by the Legion county commander for both posts to receive assistance through a revitalization effort. A team of Legionnaires from neighboring posts in the area was headed by the county commander and assisted by two national-staff members. Post 564 was selected to be the startup post, with Post 278 to follow as the weeklong event unfolded. Revitalization activities commenced with a visit to City Hall, where an interview and meeting between the revitalization team and a veteran who served on the city council was conducted and covered by the local media. Press coverage by the local newspaper and TV station was very good and most helpful in getting out the message as to how both the community and its veterans would benefit from the revitalization efforts. The revitalization team worked from expired and active headquarters-post membership leads and through known-veteran referrals. Veterans were contacted and signed up for membership in the post of their choice. The revitalization process concluded with a social and orientation luncheon being held for new Post 564 members, prospective members and the post mentors. Post 278 increased its membership by 23, and Post 564 found a place to hold meetings and increased its membership by seven. With the renewed interest in both of these posts, they are expected to become viable service-oriented entities of the community of Warren.