The Andrew B. Mygatt Post VFW in New Milford is seeking new members and to increase its presence in the community.

“We’re veterans and we’re here for the community,” said Jim Delancy, who recently resumed the role as commander, a post he has held off and on for the past 11 years.

Delancy said he wants to “try to get back to being a family organization” and enhance the VFW’s role in the community.

Although membership is small and the building needs maintenance, Delancy said the organization is here to stay in town.

“We are not closing the New Milford post, but we are looking for help,” Delancy said.

The VFW as a whole is the nation’s largest and oldest war veterans service organization.

To join, an individual must be an active or deployed member of the service, or have served during a war effort/conflict. Membership is $35 per year.

The post has a membership of 240 members, of which about 20 are active. Having a limited number of active members can pose challenges.

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Family picnic at VFW set, veterans’ meeting slated

A family picnic and a meeting with a veterans service officer will be held in the coming days.

The picnic is set for Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at the VFW hall on Avery Road. Hot dogs, hamburgers and salads are on the menu, with a cash bar.

Games, drawings, a 50/50 raffle, a dunking booth and music will be offered, and horseshoe and cornhole tournaments are planned.

Tickets are $10 per person, with children under 10 admitted for free.

Guests are invited to bring a blanket and/or lawn chairs for the festivities.

The next meeting with Veterans Service Officer Peter DiMaria will be held Wednesday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the meeting room across from the mayor’s office at Roger Sherman Town Hall.

Among them, hardships on maintaining the building. For example, the roof on the Avery Road hall needs major repairs.

Delancy said declining membership is multi-faceted.

Many of the older veterans have died and younger veterans work and are raising families.

“The younger guys are working and raising kids,” Delancy said. “We understand that, so it makes it harder to make membership role at capacity because the younger guys can’t get out and make appearances.”

Frank Peet, who has been a member since the early 1970s and was part of the Honor Guard, said although membership could be better, he is seeing more interest.

Being a part of the post has “been great,” Peet said, citing the “camaraderie” that’s developed among the members.

“You meet guys you served with and didn’t know it,” Peet said.

Chris Delucci and Wayne Maher each served as commander of the post prior to Delancy stepping up again.

“We have to build off what they’ve done,” said Delancy, who for the past two years served as state commander of the VFW.

During his time as state commander, the state VFW “obtained 100 percent statewide membership because young ones are coming around,” Delancy said.

“It’s the first time in 27 years that membership has exceeded 100 percent in the state,” he said.

That gives him hope the local VFW might be able to increase its membership.

“We cannot afford to lose any post,” he said.

The VFW has had a role in the community since it came to town in 1926. The building was constructed in 1954, with an addition put on in the early 1970s when the post saw continued growth.

In recent years, the VFW has undergone interior renovations, specifically with the two halls that are available to rent.

Delancy said many people in the community are not aware of the rental space.

The cost is just over $200 for the smaller space downstairs and just over $400 for the larger space upstairs.

“The VFW is a tremendous asset, especially in providing services and resources for our veterans,” said Mayor Pete Bass, adding the benefit of having both the VFW and American Legion in town.

He acknowledged the local post’s challenges with maintenance concerns, but is optimistic a plan will be put forth and resources will come through.

The VFW has long played a role in the community.

It is the charter organization for Boy Scout Troop 432 in town and offers Scout awards each year.

The organization, which also has an auxiliary, offers PTSD training, an annual family picnic and coordinates a monthly meeting with a veterans service officer for veterans who have questions or concerns about veterans benefits (for more information on each, see sidebar).

In addition, the VFW recently launched a monthly coffee break the last Tuesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. — open to the public — at Candlewood Valley Health & Rehabilitation Center.

For more information on membership, to make a donation to the VFW or to learn more, call the 11 Avery Road hall at 860-354-7995.