The Auxiliary to the VFW Moody Post 3351 plans on disbanding for lack of enough active members.
The organization has 30 members on its books but often can’t get five at meetings, the number needed for a quorum, said President Patty Clark. The youngest member is in her 30s, while the oldest is 96.
“Most of them are 70 and older, up to 96 for sure,” Clark said. “Several are in the home. Several are in assisted living. Their dues are paid. A lot of them are lifetime members, but there’s no participation.”
The auxiliary meets tonight (May 1) and the organization will be done likely in June, she said. In addition, national rule changes have not helped, she said.
“Most of us have been members for years and years and years. It is really heartbreaking to have to do this,” said Clark, who joined in the 1970s.
Beverly Wakeman, 84, joined the Gordon Weston Post in Flandreau, which was mostly Native American members and has since folded into the Flandreau post. She continues to put flags each year on dozens of graves at the First Presbyterian Church cemetery, something her grandson helps with and she hopes will carry on with when she no longer can.
“I could walk around with my eyes closed, and I know where all my vets are,” she said.
Wakeman has been active since she was a teenager.
“I joined when I was 16 years old. I hate to see this,” she said. “I had three brothers in the service, and my mother joined, and we were very active.”
Wakeman’s mother paid her dues for her until she could pay them herself. When she married, her husband Richard Keith Wakeman, served in World War II.
“We’re patriotic, I guess you’d say. It was very important to us,” she said. She is not sure the younger generation feels that same passion for the auxiliary.
“If it wasn’t for those men, we wouldn’t be here. Our duty is to support the veterans.”
Over the years, the auxiliary has helped sell poppies, provided meals for meetings and for community events such as Veteran’s Day and financially supported the needs of veterans who are in long-term care at the Veteran’s Affairs hospitals in South Dakota.
When the group disbands, it will donate the money left in its treasury to the VA for veteran’s needs, Clark said.
Carrie Alm, president of the state VFW Auxiliary with 41 viable chapters, said there is one other chapter in South Dakota that is looking at folding.
“Unfortunately, it’s happening all over the country, and smaller auxiliaries like Flandreau are terribly susceptible,” she said. She hopes to help them stay viable when she attends the meeting tonight. The work of helping veterans is so important, she said.
“I’m the eternal optimist that some stroke of something will happen, and they will bring it around,” she said. “Until it’s a done deal, it’s always a possibility it won’t happen.”
Lavonne Jepsen, the local auxiliary treasurer and a previous president, said once a member gets a job, it’s hard to get a break because there is no one else to take the position. Usually, the only people who come to the meetings lately are the officers and the person who serves lunch.
Jepsen, 87, joined in the 1970s because her husband, Harry Jepsen, was a World War II Navy veteran. “I just thought it was my duty to be with the women,” she said. It is sad the group is folding, she said.
“I don’t like the idea, but I don’t see we have any other choice.”