BRADENTON -- Kirby Stewart American Legion Post 24 will hold Phase 2 of its yearlong membership drive Saturday and Sunday at the Red Barn, 1701 First St.
Phase 1 was held last June with satisfactory results -- 10 new members -- and membership chairman Dick Alvarez wants to surpass that.
The 94-year-old organization's membership is about 1,400 during the winter season, but less than half that during the summer.
"Many of the post's World War II members -- the 'Greatest Generation' are gone -- and many of our other members are reaching old age," he said. "Consequently, the membership
rolls aren't being refilled by newer members."
Where will that new membership come from?
Alvarez points toward veterans of American's more recent conflicts -- Vietnam and the Persian Gulf wars, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.
"These younger guys need to pick up the gauntlet and continue Post 24's rich traditions," he said.
Accomplishing that, Alvarez said, will mean overcoming an image problem that has made selling the organization to younger members more difficult.
"When many younger veterans think of the American Legion, they picture the building on the corner where the old guys go to drink beer," he said. "We're more than that."
Other functions include:
A Veterans Relief Fund assists local veterans in need.
A service officer can help veterans recover their records and assist in the process of getting VA benefits.
Community service groups provide a variety of children's and family services.
Membership volunteers will be on hand at the Red Barn 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with information, literature and membership applications.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix