- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - A Mitchell veterans group is undertaking a massive fundraising effort to renovate their new building.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2750 in Mitchell is seeking about $253,000 in donations in an attempt to return their post home to its former glory after being forced to move out of their old building in late 2013.

The Daily Republic reports (https://bit.ly/1Nag1bK ) that Lyle Sunderland, Post 2750’s junior vice president, kicked off an online fundraiser in early November to begin what will likely be a lengthy undertaking to meet their goal.

After losing their post home during the demolition of the 134-year old Longhorn Bar on Main Street due to an issue with the shared wall between the buildings, the VFW was able to get $175,000 from the city of Mitchell because the city hired the contractor in charge of the demolition.

With that payment, the VFW was able to find a new home a short walk up the street for $79,000, but the investment in the former Prairie Breeze Gallery gift shop left the VFW without a meeting hall and squeezed the group’s 228 members into a smaller facility.

The VFW was able to renovate the first floor bar area with the additional funds left over from purchasing their new building, but the depletion of funds forced the organization to delay their second floor meeting hall.

Needing space for their monthly meetings, which are currently held on the first floor and require the bar to shut down, Sunderland took charge of a fundraising campaign to slowly expand upward.

“We want to progress from the bar area and go on to refinish (the second floor), but it’s going to take quite a bit of money to get where we want to get,” Sunderland said.

The estimated $253,065 project includes a fire suppression system and a second fire escape required by local building codes, a second floor bathroom, installation of electrical wiring and light fixtures, a furnace and air conditioning unit as well as completely finishing of the second floor.

Since establishing a web-based fundraiser on GoFundMe, the local VFW chapter has raised $500 in online donations and $330 in other donations as of Tuesday. Sunderland is also working on acquire a matching donation from a company if the VFW is able to raise $3,000.

Although the initial donations will be used for the fire suppression unit and the second egress, Sunderland has some thoughts on how to use the renovation to boost business and attract people to the south end of Main Street.

“We’ve got some pretty big ideas,” Sunderland said.

Among those ideas is the installation of a South Dakota military museum, which could include photos honoring South Dakota’s Vietnam veterans who died in combat, a World War II-era Japanese rifle that was burned by a flamethrower in Iwo Jima and perhaps a replica of the Vietnam Memorial.

The renovation would also create an affordable event hall, Sunderland said, which could possibly be rented out to the community when the VFW is not conducting meetings.

While the possible museum and meeting hall access could be attractive to some locals interested in donating, Sunderland isn’t content to sit back and let the donations flow. Sunderland knows he needs to be proactive to reach the VFW’s hefty funding goal.

Sunderland’s thoughts include conducting raffles, potentially holding a concert at the Corn Palace and seeking grant funding. But Sunderland said those fundraising methods could take up to five years, so now seemed like the right time to organize the campaign.

“If you don’t take the first step, you’re never going to take the second,” Sunderland said.

Donations can be mailed to the VFW Post 2750 Auxiliary at 215 N. Main St. in Mitchell, or at https://www.gofundme.com/yf8rxzbe .

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Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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