Local Legions record membership growth

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 5/16/01.

The Lake Henry and Paynesville American Legions have recorded membership growth for several decades.

The Lake Henry Legion has achieved continuous growth for 31 years. Paynesville has had 23 years of consecutive growth.

The Lake Henry Legion currently has 137 members while the Paynesville Legion has 263 members. Both have all-time highs.

Jerry Braun, the Lake Henry membership chairman for 30 years, said their post organized in 1947 with 17 members. After the Korean War, they had more than 30 members.

Wes Nehring recalls Paynesville had about 96 members after the Korean War.

"We were a small post and everybody joined when they returned from the war," Braun said. "Then they started looking for work and scattered across the country."

Braun said they have members living in California and on the east coast. Many keep up their dues as they want to retain membership in their home post, he added.

Ray DeZurik, the Legion state commander, told the Paynesville American Legion members at their meeting last week that with 23 years of consecutive growth, it shows the Paynesville post is doing things right.

Pete Hoppe, Paynesville Legion membership chairman for 20 years, said to achieve an all-time high each year they need to add one more member above the previous year's number.

The chairman's job is to recruit new members as well as renew the present members.

Membership losses occur when a veteran dies, moves, or doesn't renew his membership.

"This year we have 14 new members, but we lost eight," Hoppe said

To be eligible to join the American Legion, veterans need to have served in one of the following combats: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Granada, or the Persian Gulf War.

Both Lake Henry and Paynesville belong to the Sixth Legion District, which stretches from Baudette to Elk River. A total of 15,878 Legion members comprise the district.

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