VFW Post 350, initialized February 23, 1921, is the second oldest VFW Post in Maryland. We were originally located in a member’s house on Maple Avenue, but in the l960s, in order to stay open seven days a week, we moved to our current location at 6420 Orchard Avenue in Takoma Park. When we relocated, our new building was located in an area affectionately known as “Hell’s Bottom.” It got that reputation because, at one time, it was home to a biker bar that was located at the bottom of a valley; police radios wouldn’t work there. So if a call went out, the police had to respond en masse.
Like all VFW Posts, Post 350 is a community service organization, and all non-veterans are welcome at least once. Our mission is to enable veterans to associate with other veterans in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere—to meet and exchange stories about their service and get help applying for benefits. As times have changed, we have learned that it is equally important to share those stories with community members who may not have first-hand knowledge of what it took to safeguard the freedoms back home. This creates an opportunity for our members to offer a perspective on historical events from a personal point of view.
We also need to expand our core mission to proactively meet new needs. Students are not getting as complete an education in history as we did, so helping schools get the resources they need is a logical step. By carrying our legacy of military service into the classroom, our members can impress students with combat realities and the high cost of freedom in a format that will hold their attention. This will motivate our students and help prepare them for the democratic process we are committed to protect. We also need to reach out more to our environment to help build the sense of community that existed when we were younger—creating a bond that builds greater ties between our veterans and the community they serve.
This is becoming urgent because younger veterans from more recent military conflicts are turning more toward social media than our traditional Posts. And, of course, we are losing a lot of older veterans because they are not as physically active as they once were. We, as a national group, have lost almost one-third of our membership in the past two decades.
Because of this reality, and to operate as a financially responsible business, we use our facility to host our own regular events, such as an annual crab feast and a pig roast, and invite the public to attend. As a proud member of the Takoma Park Community, we provide a venue for several local bands, such as Spirit Family Reunion and The Brentwood Rockers! We also honor requests from Takoma Park nonprofit organizations and our neighbors to host approved events at our facility.
In addition, we are setting up a Men’s Auxiliary Group to enable non-veteran members of the community to spend time at the Post. This level of membership will be open to family members of individuals who served abroad. And, of course, we are always grateful for any tax-deductible contribution that can help support our community activities and for free publicity, such as the February 4, 2014, article in the Washington Post.