Visibility has been instrumental in the substantial membership growth at American Legion Post 3 in Milford, Del.
Jeff Crouser, post adjutant and unit president, led the revitalization effort that focused on making the physical post home more visible in the community as well as shining a light on its community service activities through the local media.
About five years ago, post members sold the building and placed the proceeds in an interest-bearing account until they determined a place for a new post home. In the meantime, meetings were held in a place where some members felt unsafe and there was little to no parking, Crouser said.
With a dwindling membership, the post faced the prospect of surrendering its charter.
Crouser said he was among a half-dozen members from another post who began the revitalization effort about two years ago. At that time, the post had 52 members “and falling,” he said.
The first step was to rent a place in a strip mall on U.S. 113, a major thoroughfare in Delaware that heads to the beach. The new home also has ample parking. With a new post home, membership hit around 100 in just one year.
Now, Post 3 has 376 members.
“After doing that, non-members just started coming in,” Crouser said. “And then the Delaware State News heard about us.”
A full-page article in the newspaper led to regular coverage that helps the post promote its activities. For example, on Easter Sunday, Post 3 members prepared meals and delivered them to the Milford police station as a show of support for law enforcement officers working the holiday.
This was the fifth such delivery that the post does on Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving. On Easter, American Legion Family members prepared brisket, ham and the trimmings
“It impacts the community a lot because there was a void and we are filling that void,” said Michael Havel, department commander and a member of American Legion Post 14 in Smyrna. “We are impacting and improving the community.”
As a veteran and former law enforcement officer, Crouser fully understands what this means to those working the holiday.
“I know that if you are scheduled for duty you go, whether or not it is a holiday,” he said. “One of the things I always missed — because I love to eat — is the opportunity for a good meal. We thought this was something we could do to say thank you to the men and women that are protecting and serving our community.”
Once the Milford police published the first meal on its Facebook page, 10 new members immediately joined the post.
With the enhanced visibility, new members continue to show up.
Havel is impressed with Post 3’s growth and community involvement. “They have done a lot in a short amount of time. For a post that was on the verge of going under, it’s amazing. It’s a testament to the people who are willing to do the work to make this post survive. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Crouser said their efforts are scalable for other posts looking to get their activities published in their local media. The first step, he said, was to meet with the staff member who could help get their information published and understand what information he needed.
And now, the reporter reaches out to the post weekly for information to publish.
“It was a win-win, not only for us but for them as well,” Crouser said. “Getting our news out has helped us grow and we know it is working, so we run ads in two of their papers now.”
Whether it is providing meals to officers on holidays, supporting other members of the community with donations or covering the dues of deployed active-duty members, the eyes of the community are on Post 3. And Crouser wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We enjoy what we do and like helping out worthwhile causes,” he said.