McNamara leading Brandon’s VFW, Legion groups
June 26. 2014 10:00AM
When the opportunity to lead two local military service groups arose this year, Charles “Mac” McNamara didn’t shy away.
In fact, McNamara said he was ready, willing and able to do double-duty as the commander of Brandon’s Three Rivers VFW Post 4726 and American Legion Post 318. He said the desire to lead both groups simply makes sense.
“Four years ago when I was senior vice for the VFW, we tried to form a uniform group of volunteers between the two (VFW and American Legion), because basically we’re all veterans,” he explained. “We do so many events together anyway because of low numbers, so it made sense, and so this year when it came up, I said if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it now.”
Last Friday, McNamara took another step in “merging” the two groups, by inviting reps from both military service groups, as well as members from several community organizations to the Commander’s Inaugural Dinner.
Because the VFW and Legion pair up in many of their endeavors – the Loyalty Day Parade, Fourth of July and Flag Day, for example – McNamara wants that cooperative effort to encompass other non-profit groups in the city, too.
“That’s the reason for tonight’s dinner,” he said. “I know how tough it is to get volunteers. But if we could take every volunteer group in Brandon – the Optimist’s, the Edge, Brandon Contractors and Friends and everyone else – and share volunteers, everybody wins.”
Under McNamara’s joint effort plan, volunteers from the Brandon Edge may want to help Brandon Contractors and Friends with the Ed Polzine Game Feed, or members from the BV Optimist Club may want to extend a helping hand to the Edge’s yearly sandbox fill, for example.
“Theoretically, it should come out better for everybody and we’re not looking to always draw on five or six people at every single event running the organization, while nobody else shows. So that’s the whole point of getting everybody together for the dinner,” he said.
If the event is a fundraiser, McNamara said organizations would gain a share of the profit based on the number of volunteers provided and hours worked.
McNamara is also asking the two military service groups to help out another community organization, the Brandon Area Food Pantry. Their first endeavor is the “Helping Hand” donation cards that will be available at the VFW, Sunshine Foods, Blaine’s, Brandon Health Mart Pharmacy now through the end of July.
Folks are being asked to donate money – in any amount – write their name and donation on the card, where it will be displayed through the month of July at one of the above-mentioned businesses.
“At the end of July, hopefully we’ll have a nice amount to give Linda (Weber, executive director) at the Food Pantry,” McNamara said.
McNamara said the Food Pantry was a Godsend to him when he needed it most.
“When I got full custody of the girls, the conditions that my daughters were placed in by my ex-wife and her boyfriend, were horrible and despicable. They literally came out of there with the clothes on their backs. Suddenly, I had my daughters – and I’m thankful – but I’ve got to literally stop on the way home and buy them clothes and everything that they need. Somehow, Linda found out about it, and I thank whoever told her,” he tells. “Being a very proud man and not wanting to do anything, she called me and said, ‘I understand you have full custody of the girls … why don’t you get down here and get a little bit of food to stock the cupboards with.’ ”
As humbling as the gesture was, McNamara came to the realization that assistance from the Food Pantry “is a helping hand, it’s not a handout. It’s a hand up when some body needs it the most,” he said. “So one of the first things I said when I got elected Commander, is that I don’t care what we have to do, but we’re going to help out the Food Pantry this year.”
McNamara coins this year as a “rebuilding year” for the two VFW and Legion groups. Besides building better relationships throughout the community, he hopes to increase membership numbers and attendance at meetings. The VFW currently lists 140 members – 93 of which are Lifetime members – while the Legion has 50 active members.
“It is an aging volunteer force,” he said. “And maybe by getting everybody involved, what we’re going to do here is breathe new life into it.”
The American Legion meetings, which are held at the VFW, start at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. The second Tuesday of the month is dedicated to the VFW’s House Rules meeting and the third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. is the organization’s regular meeting.
“What I’d like to see this year is the whole community come together and share their volunteers,” McNamara said. “I want a unified, volunteer force here in the city, because the whole community benefits from it.”