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Dick Nichols (left) of Keeseville and Thad Lewis of Lewis discuss plans for the future site of AmVets Post 87 in Keeseville. Other than a new flagpole, which was donated by Woodmen of the World Insurance, construction has been at a standstill for the past five years while they await an additional $50,000 in donations to complete the building, which they estimate is about 75 percent finished.

In 2003, AmVets Post 87 bought property, with plans to move from the Veterans of Foreign Wars building to their own site in 2009.

But when the economy slowed, the donations and fundraising they had depended on for years slowly began to dwindle — to the point where even events like bingo began tapping the organization's resources rather than increasing them, AmVets Commander Gary Baker of Keeseville said.

"We started losing money," he said, noting they no longer host bingo.

MOST WORK DONE

Over the last five years, a foundation has stood adjacent to the Knights of Columbus building, on the spot where the veterans expected Post 87 to be erected.

Without an additional $50,000, though, the cement basement — complete with electricity and a septic system — will become nothing more than the beginning of an unfinished dream for the AmVets, which estimate the construction is 75 percent done.

BONDS OFFERED

Baker, who served more than four years in the Marines, said they had been very successful at raising money in the past, but as the economy slowed, people could no longer afford to donate money or attend events such as bingo or breakfast.

"Now we're at a standstill. We've never attempted to raise money like this."

The AmVets are now offering building bonds in $50 increments. The bonds take four to eight years to mature, with 5-percent interest per year.

Baker hopes that with the economy becoming more stable, more people will have the ability to donate.

"Every dollar counts," he said.

OPEN TO ALL VETERANS

Thad Lewis, who lives in Lewis, said organizations such as AmVets allow soldiers a place to be surrounded by peers who can relate to their experience, as well as veterans from previous wars.

"This is just another place for the boys coming back home to go to."

To become a member of the VFW, a person must have actually set foot on foreign soil. For the American Legion, the individual must have served during specific periods of time when there was armed conflict.

Lewis, who served in Korea for two years in the Army, said this prevented a friend of his — who had been stationed in Korea two years after Lewis had — from being able to join the legion, as his presence was during peacetime.

AmVets is open for anyone who served honorably in the military, regardless of where they were stationed or whether they fought.

Everyone in the military offers service to their country equally, Baker said, adding that those who were not sent into combat situations were all "willing to go."

"I respect and honor all the military veterans, not just those that served in a war zone," he said.

CHARITABLE WORK

Not only does AmVets provide a place for veterans to gather, it also donates money to local causes. In the past, it has contributed to Camp Tecumseh, to the nursing program at CVPH Medical Center and to the College Advancement Program, allowing eligible students to get a head start on college while still in high school and save money on college tuition.

Baker said that until the nonprofit organization has its own building and no longer has to pay rent, it can't make any money for charity or to sustain their organization

Member Dick Nichols of Keeseville, a Navy veteran, said they will not be able to make such fundraising activities successful until the building is finished.

"If we get a roof over our head," he said, "we'll be able to make money."

The AmVets remain optimistic that they can continue helping their community once the necessary funds are raised, but Baker said the goal of opening the new Post 87 building depends solely on help from area residents.

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