Lakeside’s Carter-Smith VFW Post 5967 embarks on campaign for major facility repairs
Whether 70 years is seen as a long or short time depends on perspective. For an organization or facility that has been sustaining on a shoestring, attaining seven decades can be a challenging milestone.
And so it is, with Lakeside’s Carter-Smith Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5867. The veterans’ service organization is looking toward celebrating its 70th anniversary early next year. Membership has experienced a recent turnaround and is gaining for the group that received its initial VFW charter on February 6, 1946.
The Post’s building dates back roughly as far too, with construction on the community center started in 1946, and completed in 1948 for housing the Women’s Club of Lakeside. Now known as the War Memorial Building, that facility, however, has been subject to substantially deferred maintenance and upkeep for several years.
The wear and tear on the building is showing, with serious roof leaks repeatedly damaging interior ceiling tiles. One air conditioning unit among five had to be replaced, and others are leaking now too.
VFW Post Commander Steven Williams described the current circumstances as difficult but not overwhelming, because the Post is beginning to thrive again. “We support veterans. We are veterans,” Williams explained. “One of the things we do is we educate people about our organization. We want people to understand this is not a bar, it’s a club.”
And the Lakeside and larger East County communities are taking notice. On October 27, Post members were notified that on recommendation from County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, the Post was chosen to receive a Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grant of $17,000 to help partially fund roof repairs and other repair and remodeling needs. Williams said estimates on the total cost for fixing the roof alone run from $32,000 to possibly as much as $50,000. Williams and his Post members are asking for any other help people can give.
A tour around the building showed the needs. Even with the most recent minimal rainfall in Lakeside, several ceiling tiles from an already-repaired area have fallen away. Insulation has dropped out from under another tiled area.
“The front area of the roof has been patched six or seven times,” Williams shook his head. “Any rain at all destroys the tiles. We had another new leak over the dining room. We think we’ve got that fixed now. We aren’t sure. We have all kinds of projects here.”
Making the bathrooms wheelchair accessible is a necessary but longer-term goal. The parking lots need some work. The memorial outside the facility’s entryway honors Lakeside VFW Post members who have passed away. That monument also needs repair of worn engravings and possible remodeling.
The VFW Post serves not only local military veterans but the greater community as well. The Post’s biggest annual event is commemoration of Memorial Day. The Post has assisted with chartering four Scouting organizations. Members actively support the annual Stand Down weekend for homeless veterans. Some will be traveling to Chula Vista on November 5 for Take a Vet to School Day. Post members will appear at the Veterans Day Parade in downtown San Diego and in the Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon.
Williams is serving in his second term as Lakeside VFW Post Commander for 2015-2016. He separated from military service as a master sergeant in the Marine Corps. His background is in public affairs. His wife, Miranda, is on active duty in the Navy also working in public affairs, at North Island.
“We have been reaching out to veterans,” Williams stated. “We had 464 Post members when I took over in 2014 and the Post was in a very bad place. We now have 567 members, and we’re seeing a steady pace of growth. I attribute this to our new philosophies.”
Transfers and membership outreach drives have contributed to increasing the Post’s strength in numbers.
Williams improved the Lakeside VFW’s use of social media and Internet exposure. Williams said that he simplified and increased user-friendliness of the Post’s website. He further added Facebook and Twitter accounts to announce Post activities. He has promoted delegation and mentoring for shared responsibilities at the Post.
“I want people to feel empowered, encouraged and motivated,” Williams said. “There is no telling how much they can do once they understand they are appreciated.”
One community outreach endeavor is an open invitation to the public to attend the Post’s dinners and events. Thursday nights feature a home-cooked meal with a rotating menu. Fridays are Steak Nights, with $15 getting each diner choice of a New York strip or T-bone steak accompanied by baked potato, green beans, salad, roll and dessert. Breakfasts are served on Sunday mornings. Karaoke provides nighttime entertainment on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Tuesdays at the VFW Post offer the chance for billiard skills competition in a pool tournament. Wednesday nights have a new attraction, with musical performances from Valor & Lace.
Upcoming special events include the earliest of three countywide toy drives for needy children, on Nov. 7, with the San Diego Chief Petty Officer Spouse Association’s first annual Toys for Tots Toy Drive and Vendor Event daylong gathering. An evening of Elvis Presley tribute music will be staged at the Post on Nov. 14, with general admission tickets $20 apiece for hearing Eli “Tigerman” Williams recreate Presley’s 1968 Comeback appearance and his Las Vegas nightclub era. The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving will bring attendees together for potluck dinner. The Post will also host its first-ever craft fair on December 5.
The VFW Post is named in honor of Lakeside residents Howard Carter and Rowland Smith, both of whom were killed in action during the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. Carter served aboard the USS Dobbin, Smith on the USS Oklahoma.
Williams requested further community support and assistance. He pointed out that the Post is a 501(c)(19) nonprofit organization and eligible to provide tax-deduction receipts for any donations. The Lakeside VFW Post has a GoFundMe account for online contributions at www.gofundme.com/warmemorialbldg.
Lakeside’s Carter-Smith VFW Post 5867 is located at 12650 Lindo Lane, (619) 443-0556. The Post’s hall is available for rent.
More information can be found online at WWW.lakesidevfw5867.com/ or www.facebook.com/pages/Lakeside-VFW-Post-5867/171146536346094.