VFW Post 1152 is recovering financially after restrictions on gaming due to the COVID-19 pandemic nearly caused the post to shutter.
Gaming is the lifeblood of the post, and when the state shut it down temporarily to prevent the spread of the virus, Post Commander John Meeks wasn’t sure the VFW could survive it. However, after the ban lifted in mid-June and gamers were allowed to return to the post’s popular bingo games, Meeks said the future looks much more certain.
“I have to thank our bingo players. Once we were able to open, many of them came back. People were supporting us again, and they’re keeping us afloat. I wouldn’t say we’re completely out of the water yet, but I’m not having to tread water as much,” Meeks said.
The commander said the restrictions couldn’t have come at a worse time. The post makes 50 percent of its annual income from February to the middle of May, Meeks said. On average, the post’s bingo games bring in approximately $10,000 per week. With the games halted for around 12 weeks, Meeks estimated the post lost $120,000 in revenue.
On top of it, the post had to renew its gaming license shortly before the shutdown, which came with a $16,000 price tag, and it had significant loans to repay as a new roof was put on the building under Meeks, as well as a new heating system.
While gaming still isn't bringing in as much as it was pre-COVID, as some players still are opting to stay home, Meeks said they’re doing decently well.
“We’re still a little under, and I respect how people look at things. We still have a few members that haven’t come back into the post, and I respect that. Some of them are high-risk … We’re not where we was, but it’s going to take a long time before we’re even close to being where we were at one time. But it’s a work in progress,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Meeks said the community rallied around the post when it was struggling, and he thanked the bingo players, members, and community for helping out during trying times.
In May, a fund raiser was started to raise $20,000 for the post to cover overhead during the shutdown, and Meeks said the community came through. The goal nearly was hit, and the post did its part to cut back on expenses and bring in additional funds, as well. Meeks canceled the post’s cable television and sold its pickup truck. The post also had an inaugural garage sale this summer, which was able to bring in around $1,500 for the post.
During the shutdown, the post also received the federal paycheck protection program forgivable loan, which Meeks said was a “tremendous” help in keeping the post’s eight employees on staff and helping cover expenses.
Now with a revenue stream with the post reopened and gaming on, Meeks said the VFW won’t be closing anytime soon.
“I’m just glad I don’t have closing the post as the top priority on my mind any longer. Of course I’m the commander that got the post probably in the most debt than it ever has been because we needed a new roof, and we needed a new heating system. But I’ll be d*mned if I was going to be the commander that has to close the post doors forever,” Meeks said. “I was going to do whatever necessary to make sure that didn’t happen, but I didn’t have to work that hard. When people heard that we may have to shut down, the response we got was immediate. It gives you a real good feel. You think there still may be hope left in this world.”
The commander encouraged the community to stop by the post, located at 920 N. Washington St. Anyone is welcome, though those purchasing alcohol at the bar have to be signed in by a member. The post’s bingo games are open to the community as well. For more information, call the VFW at 765-452-1521.