Editor's note: In recognition of Veterans Day, this is the final story to run this week looking at the Northfield Veterans of Foreign Wars and the membership struggles facing Post 4393, its men's auxiliary and its ladies auxiliary.
READ THE FIRST STORY: A Change for the Ages: Northfield VFW Membership Dwindles
READ THE SECOND STORY: A Change for the Ages: Northfield VFW Ladies Auxiliary Challenged by Aging Members
It's no secret the Greatest Generation is shrinking every day.
One look at the dwindling membership of the Northfield Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW—both locally and nationally—can you tell you that.
“We’re just trying to ... help out in any way we can. We all know people that have served their time."
But that doesn't mean all hope is lost. There is one baby-faced organization at the VFW where membership is reversing the trend of its two elder groups.
Three years ago, the Northfield VFW Post 4393 became home to a VFW Men’s Auxiliary. The group has grown steadily every year and now boasts approximately 45 members, most of whom are between 35 and 55 years old—30 years younger than the average VFW member.
“We’re just trying to raise money and help out in any way we can,” said Clayton Landsteiner, vice president of the Northfield VFW Men’s Auxiliary. “We all know people that have served their time, that have done their duty.”
This is especially true for Landsteiner, who is the manager of the Northfield VFW and whose father and uncle both served in the military. Landsteiner wanted to become more involved with the VFW, but wasn’t qualified for membership.
The Men’s Auxiliary was the perfect alternative.
The parameters for membership are the same as those of the Ladies Auxiliary. Members must have a blood relative or spouse who was a member of the VFW or was/is eligible to join the VFW.
The Auxiliary’s primary goal is to raise money for a variety of charities and community programs. They host fishing contests, sell hot dogs at local festivals and run twice-weekly bingo at the VFW. Their proceeds are donated to the Boy Scouts, community sports programs and to provide phone cards for veterans overseas. The Auxiliary also holds benefits to solicit funds for community members suffering from cancer.
Not without challenges
Despite their efforts, the Men’s Auxiliary has experienced difficulty getting off the ground. The first VFW Men’s Auxiliary in the country is only about 5 years old, according to Landsteiner.
Calls to the Minnesota VFW Headquarters and the VFW National Headquarters revealed that currently there are no district, state or national men’s auxiliary organizations, so auxiliaries must operate independently within their posts.
Like many VFW organizations, the Northfield VFW Men’s Auxiliary has encountered the challenge of high membership and low participation.
“We struggle to get six to seven people at the meetings,” said Carl Sorenson, president of the group.
But as their numbers grow, so too, they hope, will regular participation from their members. And, with that, maybe they can help lift the Northfield VFW get just a little bit younger.
“It’s coming. It’s just taking time.”
You can find more articles from this ongoing series, “Dispatches: The Changing Amerian Dream” from across the country at The Huffington Post.
MORE VETERAN DAYS COVERAGE
• PHOTOS: Northfield Veterans Day 2011—Northfield Patch
• VIDEO: Northfield Veterans Day 2011—Northfield Patch
• A Change for the Ages: Northfield VFW Membership Dwindles—Northfield Patch
• A Change for the Ages: Northfield VFW Ladies Auxiliary Challenged by Aging Members—Northfield Patch
• PHOTOS: Bridgewater Elementary Honors Northfield Veterans—Northfield Patch
• VIDEO: Tribute to All Veterans—Northfield News