Welcome veterans: Kona VFW back in business after more than three-month hiatus

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KAILUA-KONA — The VFW post in Kona will reopen its doors next week after more than three baseless months that drained nearly the entirety of the chapter’s stockpiled funds.

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KAILUA-KONA — The VFW post in Kona will reopen its doors next week after more than three baseless months that drained nearly the entirety of the chapter’s stockpiled funds.

The official reopening of Lance Corporal Christopher Camero Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12122, located behind Kona Locksmith store off Kaiwi Street in the Kona Old Industrial Area, is scheduled for noon Monday.

The post’s public information officer Don Zero said it couldn’t have come soon enough.

“We’ve had no income,” Zero said, noting that the post’s shutdown rendered regular fundraising efforts nearly impossible. “The coffers are not quite bare, but if you turned the cookie jar upside down, probably only change would come out. We’re down to the bare bones.”

The problem began in September when a sewer line on the second floor of the post’s building broke, contaminating the space and requiring a drawn out process of procuring bids, selecting a contractor and then replacing walls, floors and commodes. Health and building codes rendered the space unusable.

“They just tore the place apart,” Zero said.

The accident couldn’t have been less timely, as holiday fundraisers and the football season tend to bring in the bulk of donations and traffic at the post’s bar.

“We have a big contingent from the Northwest here,” Zero said. “When the Seahawks play, we can have 30 or 40 people lined up to watch on the big screen TV, and we couldn’t do that.”

Also shutdown were the weekly, $5-per-plate Friday evening dinners, another primary source of income for the post. Even finding a venue for regularly scheduled meetings was a challenge until the Mad Marlin offered a portion of its at a rate of $20 per day, which Zero said was crucial to keeping the chapter functional during the interim.

The VFW did receive some additional financial relief, as rent on its space in the Kona Old Industrial Area was waived during the months of October, November and December. September’s rent was still required.

But utilities and water bills continued to rack up. Those expenses were ultimately paid by members of the local chapter who dug into their own pockets to keep the lights on while the nearly 215 VFW and Auxiliary members waited patiently, yet anxiously, for the chance to return home.

Beyond the members’ loss of a venue to congregate and fundraise, the post’s brief homeless stint was a blow to the most vulnerable of veteran contingents — transient veterans who rely on the VFW for outreach purposes.

The post offers referral services to the VA and the Vet Center, and also works with HOPE Services Hawaii to help vets in need find whatever assistance they may require. In the past, that assistance has proved at times to be not only life-changing, but life-saving.

“With the post being closed, there was no opportunity to provide services and assistance to vets out on the street,” said Wayne Gray, Junior Vice Commander of the Kona VFW. “It kind of cut us off from being able to serve the veteran community.”

Those services will return starting next week, Zero said, along with every other VFW staple local vets have come to rely upon. The first Friday night dinner will be held at 5 p.m.

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The grand reopening of the post will begin with a blessing set for noon with a celebration to follow. All are welcome to attend, but post officers ask those who do to bring light pupus. The bar will be fully stocked and open for service.

“It’s about time,” Zero said. “Everyone feels good about the opening. It looks nice inside, and we’re just going to go forward now.”