Members of the Vergas Lions club are spearheading an effort to raise $85,000 to $100,000 to build a veterans memorial park near the Vergas baseball complex.

“The city gave us a really nice site, right on the main drag going through Vergas,” said Doug Safar, a member of the organizing committee. “It will fit in nicely with other community events, and will memorialize and honor our military. It’s a place for families and kids to go to learn about our military.”

Preliminary plans call for the park to have granite benches, granite memorial pillars, and federal, state and military flags on display.

The site will consist of walkways and two paved circular areas, one with a large military star in the middle and one with a memorial pillar in the middle.

“It will be right on the edge of the ballpark complex,” Safar said. “Ours will be on the street side -- there’s another group looking at building pickleball courts on the other side.”

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Preliminary plans call for a groundbreaking ceremony to be held on Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, but the time has not yet been decided, he added.

Soil prep work will start as soon as weather permits, since that’s something that committee members, their family members and other volunteers can do on their own, Safar said. “Vergas is a very supportive community,” he added. “The rest of the project will depend on how fundraising goes,” he said.

The five-person committee, which includes four Vietnam veterans, is hoping to at least get the paving work done this year, and “if we have to wait and get the pillars, flags and benches in a year from now, we will,” Safar said. “But we will do it all this year if possible.”

The group is flexible in its planning. For instance, it originally set sights on six granite benches, “but we already sold three without trying very hard, and we have room for eight to 10 benches, so we’ll do as many as people want. We won’t turn down other people's money,” he said with a laugh.

“We are all veterans and Lions members, and we just kind of got talking about how it is that our little town of Vergas doesn’t have a veterans memorial,” said committee member Dennis Breitzman. “You see them all over Minnesota -- a lot of towns have them.”

The committee members approached the Vergas City Council with the idea, and “one thing led to another, and they kind of offered up this parcel of land by the baseball diamond,” Breitzman said. “Obviously the year of the pandemic isn’t the best,” he added, “but people are interested and there are a lot of veterans in the area, and we’re hoping it works out.”

An overhead view of the proposed veterans park in Vergas. (Submitted graphic, March 2021)
An overhead view of the proposed veterans park in Vergas. (Submitted graphic, March 2021)

The committee is raising money several ways:

  • Through the sale of granite benches, which require a $5,000 donation and are engraved to remember a service person, family or organization.
  • Through granite pillars, which will hold engraved metal plates memorializing a service person. The cost is $150 for an engraving.
  • Through a flag fund, to help replace worn flags. Planning for the flag display is preliminary, but for sure the memorial will hoist an American flag and flags representing the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines, Safar said.

The committee is also applying for local and regional grants, and is hoping that individuals and businesses come through with donations to help meet that $100,000 goal.

The West Central Initiative, a Fergus Falls-based foundation that serves nine counties, including Otter Tail and Becker, is helping handle donations, which are tax deductible.

  • To donate, make your check payable to WCI, and write Vergas Veterans Memorial on the memo line. Mail to West Central Initiative, P.O. Box 318, Fergus Falls, MN, 56538-0318.
  • Or drop payment at the city of Vergas office.
  • Online donations can be made at www.wcif.org/VVM

Gifts of cash, stocks, appreciated securities, real estate, life insurance and IRA rollovers are accepted.

Members of the organizing committee are: Lyle Krieg (701-238-1575); John Lotzer (701-680-9189); Henry Ditterich (320-226-3727); Dennis Breitzman (701-202-6337); and Safar (218-201-2554).

“We have a very good group,” said Safar, the only committee member who is not a veteran, but who wanted to put his banking and financial background to use helping out the campaign. “We are a small group, but very active -- everybody participates,” he said.