Iowa American Legion post fundraising for building repairs
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — One hundred years ago this year, two Waterloo native sons from opposite sides of town and rival high schools were killed in World War I.
Now, the American Legion post named for them after their deaths is issuing a “call to arms” to carry its operations into another century.
Becker-Chapman American Legion Post 138, named for local World War I heroes Fred Becker and Carl Chapman, is trying to raise funds to complete building repairs and renovations to its home of the past 2 1/2 years.
The post has launched a fund drive among its members and is planning a major fundraising party from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. April 21 at the post.
Jim Hoffman, a member of the board of trustees executive committee and second vice commander of the Sons of Legion group associated with post, said the fundraiser is needed to pay past construction debt and meet future needs.
“It cost a lot more to make this facility what we’d like it to be since we relocated from Franklin Street (in 2015), and it’s just cost more than anybody anticipated,” Hoffman told The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier . “The building needs more work. The roof is a big issue. We just need to try to get ourselves in the black, if at all possible.
The group also hopes to raise awareness of what the American Legion contributes to the community, he said.
“We do a lot of different programs — Boys State, we do a lot to help with Salvation Army, a lot with the (Iowa) Veterans Home (in Marshalltown.). We try to raise funds to help other organizations, along with ourselves,” Hoffman said.
The financial situation “is getting better, because we are trying to get more public awareness that we’re open to the public; see what’s going on here,” Hoffman said. “I think there’s a lot of misconception. I think a lot of people think the American Legion is a private club, established for veterans. But it’s not. It’s for the entire community.”
Organizers of the April 21 event, sponsored by Sons of Legion Post 138, and concurrent membership fundraiser, have a goal in mind.
“All of our debt, plus other work that needs to be done to the building, are in excess of $100,000. Somewhere between $120,000 to $130,000,” Hoffman said. “The biggest question mark is, when we begin the renovations with the roof is, how far are we going to have to go. Because we don’t know until you open it up, how far you’re going to have to go — how much rotten wood you’re going to find. We have the leaks stopped. We’ve done that part; we’ve raised enough funds to do that. We haven’t had any problems with leaks since the temporary repairs. But we know they are temporary.”
In the late summer and early fall of 2015, the post moved to West Sixth and Commercial streets from its longtime location on Franklin Street, which was demolished for adjacent KWWL-TV’s expansion project.
The city paid the post 138 $300,000 for its old building and set aside another $100,000 in relocation costs to be paid when the new building was substantially complete.
Some work was done on a portion of the roof prior to the move, Hoffman said.
“It needs to be better,” he said. “It was temporary at that time. They ran out of funds to complete the project, is the best way to term it.”
Requirements for the roof renovation have been clarified with city officials. “It’s just a matter of raising the money to pay for it,” Hoffman said. “I think the biggest thing that inflated the cost so much was putting in a commercial kitchen” to accommodate public events and keep the post operationally viable, Hoffman said. “I don’t think anybody had a handle for what that was going to cost. We’ve had electricians and plumbers and my own company, we did a lot of work with the kitchen and just backed up on that.”
The post launched a “Call to Arms” fundraiser among members to match a $20,000 challenge donation by a single post member to help pay off past creditors. “We’ve had a pretty good response from it.”
The post has about 400 to 500 members, including regular post members of the Sons group. Operations have benefited from Waterloo Knights of Columbus Council 720 holding its regular events there after moving out of its location on Locke Avenue near La Porte Road.
Becker-Chapman American Legion Post 138 is open daily and has a schedule of regular events, as posted on its Facebook page.
The April 21 event will include food from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There also will be a POW-MIA ceremony and honor guard rifle salute at 6 p.m., entertainment by Vinyl Frontier from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and a raffle and prize drawings.
The post will mark its 100th anniversary next year. It was founded in 1919 and named at that time for U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Fred Becker, an East High School graduate and All-American football player at the University of Iowa, and Lt. Carl Chapman, a West High graduate who attended Amherst College in Massachusetts and was a fighter pilot for the French and U.S. air services.
Becker was killed leading an attack on a German machine gun nest near Vierzon, France, on June 18, 1918. He destroyed the German gun emplacement but was killed by a shell fragment. He was awarded the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Waterloo, one grave in a circle of fellow World War I soldiers. A Waterloo elementary school is named for him.
Chapman served in the famed Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of American pilots flying for France. He was shot down in flames and killed in an aerial dogfight over Toul, France, on May 3, 1918, after attacking five German planes on patrol and downing one. He is buried at a Lafayette Escadrille memorial in France. Waterloo’s first air field was named for him.
Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com