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American Legion Post 245 offers help to vets, spouses
By LESLIE KELLY
Kitsap Veterans Life
POULSBO — It’s a small office, tucked away in downtown Poulsbo. From the exterior, it looks like it could be a real estate office or a small business. But it’s so much more.
It’s the service office of the American Legion Post 245. And its only goal is to help veterans.
“This is one of the most crucial things we do as American Legion members,” said Don Spinar, commander and adjutant of Post 245. “What happens here can affect veterans in such a positive way.”
The Veterans Service Office, at 19068 Jensen Way, Suite 3A, is a clearinghouse of sorts for everything veteran. According to Spinar, volunteers who have special training staff the office on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to help veterans with anything they need.
“We can help them with their VA claims for benefits,” he said. “We can help them through the paperwork and all the steps that have to be taken in order for them to get their needs met.”
And, he said, the Service Office is just as available to family members of veterans.
“We work with spouses and children who are trying to get the death benefits that are due them,” he said.
He said the office has even helped families obtain medals that deceased veterans were due but never received, and obtain medals to replace those that had been lost.
Whether it’s medical benefits, or questions about GI Bill education benefits, or even things related to VA home loans, the Service Center is the place to start.
There are four service officers, all who have completed special training and certification with the Veterans Administration and the American Legion, Spinar said.
“One of them is new and just getting his feet wet,” he said. “And we have a woman on staff because we know that women veterans like to be able to talk to another female.”
Besides VA benefits and programs, the center has information about other programs available for veterans in Kitsap County, including employment and housing. Spinar works with the Kitsap Veterans Resources Center in Bremerton and will often refer to that office’s programs when needed.
Another thing the Service Center can do is help aging veterans when they can no longer stay in their homes.
“It’s the Aid and Assistance program,” Spinar said. “We work with older veterans to make sure that they get the care they deserve.”
The center also has some gift cards that can be given to veterans in need of groceries.
The work that is done at the Service Center is all volunteer, Spinar said, as is the work that Post 245 does in the Poulsbo-area community.
“We have 227 members on the books,” he said. “But in reality, we have more like 15 who are active month-to-month,” he said. “They are the ones that really work to see that we serve this community.”
Among the post’s projects is a food drive for the local food bank during the holidays. Last year, post members collected 707 pounds of food, five turkeys, and $171 for Fishline in Poulsbo.
The post also sponsors students in the American Legion Boys and Girls State programs. Participants attend a week-long program to learn about civics, run for offices and propose legislation.
The post sponsors three baseball teams and honors police officers, firefighters and EMTs on Sept. 11 each year with its Freedom Walk.
“We have a walk from the parking lot at the community center to the American Legion Park in downtown and we carry American flags, just to honor all those who provided emergency services on 9-11 and every day since then,” he said. “Last year, when we walked past Martha & Mary, the residents there came out and sang ‘God Bless America.’ It was very moving.”
As with many American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Post 245 is hoping to attract new members.
“As the years pass, our members get older and can’t be as active,” he said. “We’d love to have some younger guys involved.”
Membership dues, and member’s participation in events like the Poppy Day sales, is what allows the post to continue to afford to do its work.
“We’ve had members in the past set up funds that support what we do,” he said. “But we’re always looking to raise money to support our programs.”
For Spinar, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964-67, volunteering through the American Legion is just something he wants to do.
“I was at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas,” he said. “I left on a medical discharge and never went to Vietnam. I wasn’t in the war like so many around me were.”
He said sometimes he feels like he cheated, not having served in a war zone. He said helping veterans now is a way to pay his dues. He’s been a part of the local post since he moved to the area in 1992 and he’s been commander for the past two years.
He’s never surprised at how veterans will help each other.
“After one of our meetings, a member came up and handed me a $100 bill,” Spinar said. “The member said, ‘Use this to buy more food gift cards.’ That’s just the way our members are. They want to help.”
Veterans can contact the Service Center by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The post’s website is www.alpost245.org. Veterans can call the Service Office at (360) 779-5456, or just drop by on Thursdays.
— Leslie Kelly is editor of the Central Kitsap Reporter and Kitsap Veterans Life. Contact her at email@example.com.