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Lending a hand to the VFW in Oceanside

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The Oceanside Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has hit some hard times, according to auxiliary vice president Roy Ruland.

Membership has declined due to deaths in the organization and members moving out of Oceanside. Also, since the Covid-19 pandemic, the VFW’s catering hall has been closed, so they have not been able to hold fundraisers or rent it out to others.

Ruland is now hoping to drive up membership numbers. “People don't realize you can join even if you have a family member who served overseas,” he explained.

Oceanside VFW reached out to the Oceanside Community Warriors last month for some help at their facilities. Oceanside Community Warriors is a group that cleans up outdoor, public spaces around town, including parks and “welcome” signs.

About 20 of the group’s members visited the VFW in late July to cut the grass on the property, powerwash memorials and spruce up. Before Covid-19 crisis, the Warriors also repaired a handicap railing outside the building that was damaged in a car accident.

“One of our members is a welder and installed a new railing that he found,” said Warriors co-founder Brian Driscoll, adding that in July, they finished the paint job on it.

“They really couldn't afford the landscaping,” Driscoll added. “The lawn was overgrown, so we went and helped out. A lot of people from the community and several veterans came out, who will now sign up for the VFW.”

The next day, Joe Tullo, owner of JDT Electrical, fixed some electric wires and replaced lights in the building on Weidner Avenue.

“They did a beautiful job,” Ruland said.

Ruland said he hopes that VFW can reopen by Sept. 1 — but carefully, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. He’s enthusiastic about sharing all the VFW has to offer.

“There’s a lot of history in our post,” Ruland said. “We have awards, plaques, photos and other memorabilia from World War II, Korean War, Vietnam … We’re like a historic post. Every time we have people come in, they say it’s like a museum.”

Typically, the VFW hosts a summer barbecue for veterans, clothing drives for veterans, as well as bingo and dinner fundraisers. They also hold events for Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts to teach children to properly dispose of American flags, which Ruland hopes they can hold again this November.

During the pandemic, however, these events were canceled and Ruland focused his energies on helping the community in other ways. In April, he helped distribute masks to veterans, which were donated by Anchor Pharmacy.

The VFW is starting to hold its membership meetings once more to figure out a way forward. “We do a lot for the community,” he said, “and we’re always looking for any help we can get.”