Vets to hold fundraiser for VFW post in danger of closing

November 10, 2011 (WHEATON, Ill.)

"I'm 89 years old. Most of my friends are all gone and these are my friends now," said Louis Celli, World War II veteran.

It's the last thing retired Army Corporal Celli and his friends want, but after being in existence for the last 80 years, the VFW Post 2164 is in danger of closing.

"It's just not enough money in the system anymore...I can't tell you how many of my dear comrades have passed away since I've been here," said Robert L. Hoffman, Korean and World War II veteran.

Post members say while successful, their bingo and fish fry nights have not generated the revenue necessary to keep up with up expenses. They've been dipping into cash reserves to meet monthly operating costs and that has already created a $25,000 deficit.

"Our membership has been down. And people just don't have the money because of the economic conditions throughout the country," said John Finn, VFW Post 2164 board of directors.

The post has a rich history. It was established by World War I veterans in 1931 and is known for its community outreach.

"This is real nice camaraderie. All of us come up here and we understand each other," said Sam Maggio, Vietnam vet.

That is what Dr. Bob Krzyzewski is banking on. Although the cousin of Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski isn't a member, he's putting together a chili fest fundraiser in hopes of saving the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.

"These men have given their lives, some of them in battle or carried wounds from battle, and are still supporting this post and their country today. It is my responsibility as a member of this city to do something and to try to give back," said Dr. Krzyzewski.

But for senior post members likeWorld War II and Pearl Harbor survivor Louis Licastro, the VFW has become a big part of life.

"It's like family to me. I don't know what I would do if the place closed down," said Licastro.

Members say the problem is getting younger veterans involved in the organization. They are currently trying to come up with ideas about that.

The fundraiser will take place on Saturday, November 12 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Wheaton VFW Post 2164. Hall of Fame radio personality Dick Biondi will be there to sign autographs. There will be lots of items to be auctioned off including some from Duke University, donated by Coach Krzyzewski.

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