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Frazee VFW needs help

Frazee VFW supporters include, back from left, Andy Riewer, Tony Christensen, Mike Johnson, Dave Jopp, Jerry Buhr, Hank Ludtke, Darby Nundahl, Rhonda Fleming, Jimmy Johnson and Angie Vogel, and front row Cub Scouts Zach Hesby-Rousu and Phillip Vogel. DL NEWSPAPERS/Pippi Mayfield

The past is the past, and it’s time to move forward.

That’s the attitude of Richard Fleming, quartermaster at the Frazee VFW.

“You can’t be a pillar of the community if you let your foundation crumble,” he said.

Forming as a charter in 1946, Frazee VFW Post 7702 has been slowly losing its footing and now stands in need some substantial community support to help it survive into the future.

Fleming said the post’s debt issues came from various sources, including a kitchen that was removed and the space remodeled, and a heating and cooling system that needed replacing. To pay for maintenance and other costs, the VFW had to refinance its loan a couple times, just adding to the overall debt.

“It just stockpiled,” he said. “You can’t point fingers and nail it down to one specific source.”

And that’s OK, he said, trying to move past all that and shed a whole new light on the VFW and its community involvement.

The members of the VFW held an emergency meeting earlier this year to discuss what was going to happen to the post home. Would they close down all together? Would they close down the cantina portion and simply use the building as a meeting place? Or pay it off and use it for storage?

“It got to the point that a lot of us were frustrated because they have spent so much time and effort to get things going and keep it going, but it wasn’t going anywhere,” Fleming said.

A balloon payment next April was the biggest hurdle for the establishment — one that equaled about $14,000.

“That’s a lot to come out of your pocket,” he said.

So after being voted in as quartermaster at the end of February, Fleming has been working to bring down debt and make the VFW more visible to the community.

“If you’re part of a community and trying to work with them, you have to let them know what’s going on, in my opinion,” Fleming said. “We’ve knocked down quite a few miscellaneous things that were hanging over our heads, and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

So his idea was to host an event each month to bring more awareness to the community that the VFW is not just a place where old veterans go to tell war stories. Instead, it’s a viable establishment whose members in March hosted a thank you event to emergency responders.

In April, they hosted Fiesta Friday, and on June 14, Flag Day, they have a major event planned that Fleming hopes will become an annual celebration. In May, the club participated in the scholarship awards for Frazee High School students.

“I’m trying to bring an interest in, and hopefully a little extra cash, and let them know that hey, we are here,” he said of the monthly events.

They created a thermometer to show the financial progress the club is making toward its $20,000 goal, and in the last six to eight weeks, they’ve already earned $7,500, he said.

Fleming said the cry for help started with charter member Ike Fischer — who Fleming said is the last charter member alive, to his knowledge — and Fleming wants to pay him back for his dedication to the VFW over the years.

“I want to be able to look at him, hand him the mortgage, let him tear it up, burn it,” he said.

“It’s one of those things that’s become personal. I made Frazee my home, made the post my home. I want to see it taken care of.”

Flag Day celebration

Jerry Buhr said that when he saw that the Frazee VFW was in trouble, he thought, ‘let’s go fix it.’

Being a veteran and Frazee grad himself, it was an easy decision to help his hometown post. It was also an easy decision as to the food at the fundraiser.

Besides his day job as a representative for Dacotah Paper Co., Buhr also owns JB’s Double Barrel Hog Roasting, which will be providing the cooking services that evening.

Buhr said he’s spent years cooking backstage at major events like WE Fest and Moondance Jam — and has scored some pretty sweet signed memorabilia in the meantime, too — and for large company and non-profit picnics and events.

His got his start in the cooking world as a teen while helping out his parents, Harry and Mary Lou, when they owned the Northern Inn on Big Toad Lake.

He estimates that he’s cooked up food for about 200,000 people since being in the hog roasting business.

Buhr said he wanted to help the VFW pay off its balloon payment “so they wouldn’t have that hanging over our heads.”

So on his drive from his home on Big Toad Lake to Frazee, he had the skeleton of the fundraiser he wanted to hold. Since then, it’s grown in size, bigger than he ever imagined, but that’s OK if it will help the home post.

“It took me a grand total of 22 minutes to think this up,” he said.

He knew that he would cook the food, and he asked his friend Jimmy Anderson to deejay the event.

From there, it’s taken off to include a semi-trailer donated by Daggett’s to block off the street for a street dance and provide the stage. It also includes a silent auction, gun raffle other raffles and a parade. One big raffle item will be a four-hour rental of an Anderson limo bus ride, which the company donated.

Buhr said he’s gotten 550 pounds of pork donated thus far and his goal is 800 pounds to feed 2,000 people.

The Flag Day parade will include all the typical emergency vehicles, and so far there are 200 Cub Scouts signed up to walk in the parade.

“There’s nothing small about this. It better be a big parade,” he said with a laugh. “It will be a fun, family event.

“It’s cool though,” Buhr added. “The community has really come together for this nicely.”

Schedule for June 14

  • Noon to 1 p.m. is the start of the parade line-up.
  • 2 p.m. is the parade down Main Street.
  • 4 p.m. is JB’s Double Barrel Hog Roasting food.
  • 6 p.m. is a drawing contest judging results.
  • 7 p.m. the silent auction closes.
  • 8 p.m. the raffles start.
  • 9 p.m. to midnight is the street dance with Jimmy Anderson.

For more information on the Flag Day celebration, call 218-457-0988.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield