LANSING | For Schererville resident Fred Schrum, the glory days of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7660 are intertwined with the village of Lansing.
The commander of the post can recall a time when the organization's fundraising events were large enough to buy squad cars for the Lansing Police Department.
Those days are now in the past.
On Nov. 2, officials locked the doors to the building at 2433 Ridge Road, with no intention of reopening.
"Like most of the bar business these days, we're having financial problems," Schrum said. "It got to the point where they were going to shut off our electricity and gas.
"We didn't have much of a choice but to shut down."
A good part of the problem for the VFW post is one faced by many veterans organizations -- declining membership.
A spokesman for the VFW's national office in Kansas City, Mo., was not available for comment; however, Joe March, national spokesman for the American Legion, said all veterans organizations are undergoing declines in membership, mainly due to the loss of World War II veterans.
"A lot of what we're seeing is the World War II veterans moving on to what we call the post everlasting as a result of time," March said.
American Legion membership is down from a peak of 3.3 million in 1946 to about 2.4 million members today, March said. However, a membership spike in 1992 brought the group above 3 million members for the second time its 91-year history, and the American Legion has 50,000 more members now than it had in the mid-1960s.
In the case of VFW Post 7660, it was down to 123 members, of which Schrum said, "most of them never come out to support us." That membership total is down from a peak of 500 members in past decades.
Schrum said a buyer has come forward for the VFW property, although a deal to sell has not yet been finalized. He said he anticipates the sale of the building will produce enough money to get the VFW post out of debt, although he only could say the building's value was appraised at $1 million about five years ago.
While Schrum said he will miss "all of the friends I have made there," the decision to sell the VFW building was an easy one.
"I wish we could be more active in the community the way we used to be," Schrum said.
Village President Norm Abbott recalled how the post played a role in the village beyond the military.
"I think the VFW served so many people in this community -- the weddings that were held there, the family reunions. It was a place that was not only for the military functions, but for all kinds of get-togethers," Abbott said.
There will be some remnants of the old post. The catering company that handled functions held at the VFW hall will continue to operate on a scaled-down basis. The post itself technically will continue to exist, although it will no longer have its own property, which Schrum admits will reduce its visibility in the community.
Abbott said he expects the military functions that VFW provided in the community will be assumed by the American Legion Post 697. Schrum said legion officials already have offered to let the VFW post hold its meetings the first Wednesday of every month at the legion building, 18255 Grant St.
Chuck Madry, hall chairman and bar manager for the American Legion post, said officials were to meet Wednesday night to discuss how the two organizations would co-exist in the same building.
"We're going to keep the two organizations separate, but we're all veterans, we all served our country," he said. "We want to cooperate."