Tuesday, September 25, 2012
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Cronin Brothers VFW Post 1756 is alive and doing pretty well in Lincoln

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[September 25, 2012]  According to Michelle Ramlow, there is a rumor going around town that has her concerned. According to the grapevine, the Cronin Brothers Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1756 no longer exists.

Ramlow, who is the commander of the post, said in an interview Wednesday that the VFW is alive, and considering the struggles they've had in the last few years, doing pretty well.

Ramlow also said she thinks she knows how the rumor started, and it boils down to people not understanding that the VFW post is not the building they use, but actually the people the organization is made up of.

Ramlow said a decision was made by the post about a year ago to stop selling liquor. When they gave up their liquor license, they found out that they would be required to take down their sign in front of their building on Fifth Street, and they did.

Taking it a step further, the post decided to rename the building and give it an identity of its own. Therefore they named it the Freedom Hall Event Center.

Ramlow said they wanted to separate the building from the VFW organization to a certain degree so that it would be more marketable as a meeting place for anyone and everyone who chooses to use it.

In addition to all this, when they took down the sign, the owner of the new basement restaurant and bar, Bill Osterman, put his sign up advertising the Wishbone Restaurant.

So, Ramlow said the confusion is understandable, but she still wants the public to know the VFW is a working organization.

Currently there are approximately 190 members in the post. Of that number Ramlow said about 10 members are very active, and she really wishes more would get involved with all that the group is doing because they are doing a lot.

Ramlow said that a portion of the mission of the VFW is to do community service. In that arena the VFW is getting more involved in community activities.

In February they hosted their first appreciation dinner for first responders. Ramlow said the event was well attended by police, fire and EMA members and their families. She said, as a community service, this was a moment to express appreciation to those who risk their lives for the safety and welfare of the community, much like soldiers overseas risk their lives for the freedom of the nation.

Later this spring the VFW agreed to work with emergency services and make the building a safe shelter for children from Jefferson School.

In May a special exercise was conducted where the children of the school were evacuated and brought to the Freedom Hall. While they were there, the students heard from several first responders about the importance of having a safe place away from the school if a disaster were to occur. They learned that parents would know their students were at the Freedom Hall and could come there to find them to take them home.

This year, for the first time, the post is going to participate in trick-or-treat night in Lincoln. Ramlow said Freedom Hall would be open and trick-or-treaters could stop by and get not just candy, but some other special items.

In addition to the things the post is doing at Freedom Hall, Ramlow said they contribute to the Logan County Food Pantry; will be hosting a blood drive with Logan County Love; have volunteers who help out at the Oasis Senior Center, and they offer financial support to the Lincoln D.A.R.E. program.

They are also participating in and promoting the Voice of Democracy essay contest and the Patriot's Pen contest. These contests are for high school and junior high students and come with some really hefty prize money if the local winner makes it through the ranks to the finals.

Ramlow said she wishes that more local students would participate in this contest. The grand prize is $30,000 for high school students, and for the junior high, it is $5,000.

On a local level Ramlow said if kids enter, the post will select one winner to move on to the next level -- district. Ramlow said there are several districts in the state of Illinois. The Cronin Brothers VFW belongs to District 10, which consists of several posts in nearby counties.

The student who wins on the district level will then move on to a regional competition and finally a national competition. At each level only one winner is chosen to advance. Ramlow said the competition is kind of steep, but for $30,000, isn't it worth taking a shot?

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Another part of the VFW mission is to serve soldiers and veterans. Ramlow said the post is involved in programs that offer free phone calls home for soldiers overseas. The post is also involved in offering support and assistance to transitioning soldiers. And they help in the unmet needs program that offers assistance to families while their soldier is deployed. This assistance, Ramlow said, is a financial aid program that can help with mortgage payments, rent, insurance, utilities, food and clothing.

Most will remember that a few short years ago the VFW was in financial trouble, on the verge of losing their building to foreclosure. Ramlow said she can't answer to what happened there, as she wasn't involved, but she can talk about what has happened since.

The VFW post has been striving to become more financially responsible. Ramlow said they have worked to improve their business practices and become more financially sound. She also said the organization has made a lot of progress in that area. The mortgage on the Freedom Hall is up-to-date and many of the post's other debts have been paid off.

Ramlow said this is due in no small part to Osterman, who took over the basement and is running his restaurant there. Ramlow said the Wishbone is a good fit for the VFW, and she believes the business is doing well. Osterman rents the space from the VFW, and that provides the organization with a set amount of monthly income.

In addition, Ramlow said the Freedom Hall is becoming a good source of revenue for the post. The building is rented out to whoever wishes to use it for weddings, anniversary parties, class reunions and more.

The hall is also being rented to the Pale Riders County Dance Club, the Lincoln Dance Club, and soon there will be a Zumba class starting up at the hall.

The Lincoln Farmer's Market uses the hall one weekend in December for a holiday craft sale.

Ramlow said the VFW Auxiliary is also a huge asset to the organization. The women of the auxiliary are continually working to help the post thrive. The auxiliary hosts fundraiser dinners twice a month in the hall.

And, the hall does still serve as the home of the Cronin Brothers VFW as well as its auxiliary, and it is the home of the Robert Graue Marine Corps League.

Ramlow said there is still more to do to make the post what she feels would be financially sound, but they are gaining on the situation all the time. As they make progress, she added, the post will work to do more in the area of community service as well as serving our soldiers.

Ramlow said that over time, the posts wants to spruce up their building. She noted some of the items on the "to do" list: new round tables for the hall and comfortable chairs, a new ceiling, and they need to replace the air conditioning.

And finally, they are always looking for new members. Anyone who is interested in joining the VFW can contact Ramlow through the website, http://vfwpost1756.org/.

The officers of the Cronin Brothers VFW Post 1756 are Michelle Ramlow, post commander; Kenny Delaney, quartermaster; Matt Viner, senior vice commander; Jennifer Buffington, junior vice commander; Robbie Bell, chaplain; and Roger Bakken, JAG officer. Officers are elected annually and serve in their offices on a volunteer basis.


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