The Department of Kentucky’s first statewide revitalization led to the transfer of more than 350 DMS members into a local post. And it was the result of just a few Legionnaires making phone calls.
“Just ask,” said Dr. Peter Trzop, executive director of American Legion Kentucky Boys State and a member of Post 42 in Bardstown, Ky. “We have to think about why are we not trying to connect these veterans back to the post.”
Trzop, along with several other Legionnaires, contacted members from Department Headquarters Post 200 list during Kentucky’s mid-winter conference at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Louisville Jan. 25-26. The revitalization effort at the conference was part of a previous membership drive earlier in January when hundreds of phone calls were made in a single weekend that resulted in the transfer of more than 75 members. About half of the 4,300 members on the DMS list have been contacted by phone or email in only a few weeks.
Jon Beach has made hundreds of those phone calls. During one call Friday morning Beach connected with a World War II veteran who shared his story of why he joined the Army, of serving with the 101st Airborne in Japan and attending college at the University of Kentucky.
“It was nice to just sit and talk to him. It was definitely a neat story and that’s another benefit of getting to do this,” said Beach, an American Legion service officer and member of Post 12 in Richmond. “I know a lot of people don’t always have the time, but when you have the time and you’re making these contacts, even if you don’t get an effective transfer, you still get to talk to people or leave a voice message, so you’re getting your name out there as a personal contact and The American Legion’s.”
Phone calls during the conference were made in the main hallway of the hotel with American Legion "Join Today" signage so potential new members could visibly see Legionnaires, which was successful as two veterans joined. And it showed conference attendees the benefit of working as a team and the results of delivering a simple message to DMS members – that connecting to a local post allows them to meet face-to-face with another Legionnaire if they would ever need assistance, like filing a VA claim, and that some of their dues will stay at the local and state level to help other veterans.
Trzop said the revitalization effort is a way to work as a team, build friendships and engage DMS members at the local post level to get them involved.
Kentucky Boys State alum and staffer Jeremy Dodson was onsite at the conference to locate missing phone numbers from the DMS list through the website Anywho, as well as to fill out transfer forms. A DMS list also doesn't feature suggested posts for the member to transfer to. Post 42 Commander Chris Gootee created an extra column on the DMS list and located by ZIP code posts that were within 10 miles of the DMS member's home to make the transfer process easier for both the caller and Post 200 member, who may not know what Legion post is nearby. Gootee fulfilled this through “Find A Post” on www.legion.org.
“That way when you’re on the phone you can say, ‘You’re in Post 200, a virtual post, we want to get you connected with other veterans. We want to get you into a post and here is what’s around you if you don’t already have a post in mind,’” Gootee, said.
Beach said 95 percent of the people he spoke with were receptive to transferring their membership into a local post. For those who didn’t answer the phone, Beach left his name and cell phone number in a voicemail that simply asked if they would be interested in transferring their membership into a local post and ended with “I appreciate your time and your service, God bless you, your family and the (member's military branch).” His message was well-received and effective as his phone rang throughout the conference as a result.