Calais American Legion in Need of Financial Support

Presenting Mike McLean, Commander of Sherman Brothers Post #3, with a check for $500 is Ian Pratt of Pratt dealership in Calais. Pratt was among the first to come forward with a donation upon hearing of the post’s financial difficulties. (Submitted photo)

By Lura Jackson

 

Now approaching its 100th year in existence, American Legion Sherman Brothers Post #3 in Calais is reaching out to the public to request financial support to keep its operations going. The post, which is a constant presence in the area at various ongoing events and in its efforts to raise recognition and support of local veterans, has reached a point where it will not be able to continue without donations from the community.

The post has kept going over the last few years by utilizing the proceeds of the sale of its building in 2011. Those funds have since dwindled, post Commander Michael McLean explained. “Right now, we’re down to very little,” McLean said. He outlined the post’s operational expenses, including a cell phone, post office box, stationary, internet access and general logistics.

While membership in the post is fairly high at 140 members, the state post receives $31 of the $33 individual dues, leaving the local post with $2 per member each year. McLean said he does not want to raise the dues since many of the members are living on fixed incomes. “The money was just minimum, just enough to keep us going. This is where we really need cold cash.”

The Calais post was among the first founded in the country following the “war to end all wars” – World War I. Its founding was prompted by Colonel Albert Greenlaw of Eastport, who was among those present in Paris, France when the American Legion was formally introduced in 1919. That same year, Greenlaw shared his views of the Legion in The Calais Advertiser, a piece that was read and well-responded to by two local soldiers, Richard J. McGarrigle and Joseph Murphy. The two men were among those that signed the charter to create the Calais post, along with Frank J. Burgess, Ralph Murphy, Fred Seelye, Paul Lord, Gideon Matthews, Earl Boyd, George McVay, William Murphy, Arthur Gillespie, Roy Jacobs, George L. Crowell, and Leonard Welch.

In addressing the namesake of the post, Mayor William Fowler of Calais made the following proclamation on September 26th, 1921: “The Great World War brought suffering, privation, and anxiety to many households in Calais, but only one family was called upon to mourn the loss of its sons in battle. Calais sent its full quota of sons who did their duty on land and sea, and all returned except two. The two Sherman brothers in whose honor our American Legion Post is named fell on the battle field of France. They died in defense of the great principles on which our free nation is founded.” The two brothers, Fred and Harry – 22 and 21 years old, respectively – were killed a month apart on separate battlefields in France in 1918.

Today, Sherman Brothers Post #3 engages the community frequently in events that support veterans, from the annual Memorial Day parade – the post’s major function – to the International Homecoming Festival parade in August. For the past few years, the local post has been raising funds to purchase flags to line the downtown streets. This year it began Project Branch of Service, enabling donors to pick the flag appropriate to the branch they wanted to support. Over 100 branch flags have been raised so far, with assistance from Eastern Maine Electric.

The post meets at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church every month on the third Monday at 6 p.m., and all veterans and their families are invited to attend. Similarly, a Veterans Meet and Greet is organized on the last Monday of the month at the Schooner restaurant, with free appetizers provided.

Outside of engaging local veterans, the post actively supports area charities to the best of its ability. Every year it donates what it can to food pantries and to the turkey-a-thon, and at Christmas it assists the Lions with the Santa’s Helper program. “We like to give back also, but if we don’t have it, we can’t give it back,” McLean said.

Recognizing the value that the Calais American Legion post offers to the community, Ian Pratt was the first to come forward to offer a sizable donation. As soon as Pratt heard about the post’s struggles, he offered a $500 donation. “The American Legion and Commander Mike do so much for the community,” Pratt said. “He does a fantastic job.” Pratt praised the way the downtown exudes patriotism, which he described as appropriate for an area with a disproportionate number of veterans. “It’s for the betterment of the community, and more importantly, it’s for the betterment of veterans… There’s a lot of veterans and their families that really take their service seriously. [Commander McLean] is tirelessly out there supporting them.” Pratt hopes that other individuals and businesses in the area will come forward to keep the post in Calais, as losing it “would be a travesty.”

 

Donations do not need to be large to be appreciated, McLean emphasized. “There’s no minimum. Everything helps.” To make a donation, send a check with “Calais American Legion Support Fund” in the memo line to Calais American Legion Sherman Brothers Post #3, PO Box 311, Calais, Maine 04619. To follow the post’s activities on Facebook, search for “Calais American Legion.”