- Associated Press - Saturday, May 20, 2017

AUSTIN, Minn. (AP) - It only has two members, but Spam Post 570 is looking to change that.

An all-women American Legion post, Spam Post 570 has struggled to attract younger members, the Post-Bulletin (http://bit.ly/2q1pbDt ) reported. The pool of female veterans wasn’t large when Spam Post 570 formed after World War II, but the post grew during the 1980s.

Post Adjutant Eileen Chao, a 20-year veteran, said efforts are underway to add at least 10 new members by July, which is the Spam brand’s 80th anniversary. A six-member steering committee was created to revitalize interest in and bring more exposure to the small post, Chao said.

“We’d love to have 20 to 30 people who come in with some ideas and provide the energy and activity,” she said, “and get more involved in community projects, and do what American Legions do.”

The post is “open to any women veterans from any branch. You don’t have to be in Austin to join. We plan on using modern technology, like Skype, and have teleconferences. What we want to do when we have enough membership is to work with members of the American Legion on community-based things such as scholarships or participating in events such as Memorial Day.”

The all-female veterans group started with 20 members in 1946 when it was founded by Jay C. Hormel. Eight of those women were employees at the Hormel plant. As it grew, the post included veterans from all military branches. Hormel also had started a program before the end of World War II to help returning soldiers find jobs.

Known as the “Hormel Girls,” female veterans who had both a military and musical background were encouraged to join Spam Post 570, with hopes of having a competitive American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps for the National American Legion Convention in New York City. The post members in Austin focused on the American Legion’s mission by participating in Veterans Day events, child welfare, making baskets for those in need and visiting local hospitals.

Chao said Spam Post 570 still is considered an active post despite having only two members. American Legion Post 91 has kept the Spam Post alive during the last decade by paying its membership fees and sharing the building with them.

“If it hadn’t been for them, the post would have lapsed,” Chao said. “Thank goodness for them. They’ve been giving us advice and information we need to get people signed up. They’ve been wonderful.”

Spam Post 570 is working with Post 91, the Mower County Historical Society and other female Legion posts to get the word out about revitalizing Post 570. This includes community events such as First Thursday events at the Spam Museum, which sponsors Spam Post 570, in conjunction with the 80th anniversary of Spam.

Until there’s a more sustainable membership, Post 570 won’t be meeting anytime soon. But, Chao is optimistic. So far, four to five veterans have reached out to Post 570 and expressed interest in joining.

“It’s a great organization in itself,” she said. “It’s not just an old men’s club. It’s something we recommend to do. Mostly, people don’t know we’re here and don’t know what American Legion does. … We would love to have some more people come and decide things together as a post.”

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Information from: Post-Bulletin, http://www.postbulletin.com

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