Post Participates in Mid-Winter Conference

Eight members of Utica Post 229, along with several Auxiliary members, attended the New York Department’s Mid-Winter Conference held Jan. 22-24, 2010 at The Desmond in Albany. The Auxiliary portion of the conference took place at the Marriott.

The conference offered an array of seminars and committee meetings. Among the topics covered were: membership recruiting, finance, Legion baseball, state convention, Legion Riders, bowling, rehabilitation, legislative matters, post historians, Americanism, junior shooting sports, law & order, protocol, internal affairs, homeland security, Boys State, compliance, Scouting, special projects, public relations, Legion press association.

Alaska’s Jimmie Foster, leading candidate for national commander, flew in to make his face known to New York Legionnaires. He circulated at the conference, dropping in on a number of sessions to introduce himself and praise the work that Legionnaires are doing.

It costs a lot of money for future national commanders to travel to every state and get to talk and listen to Legionnaires at all levels, Foster told the public relations session. He figures it’s costing him about “a quarter of a million dollars” – which is why candidates for national commander need a lot of fundraising support.

“You guys do PR,” he told the session attendees. “PR is every day.” He noted that the product – membership in the American Legion – sells itself because veterans recognize the value of a 2.6 million-member veterans organization.

“The problem is those going out the back door…We need to get those guys active in the Legion” so they won’t get bored and leave.

He noted that going around the country, one problem he often sees is that “you can’t separate the post from the bar.” It’s bad PR for a post to have a bar as its primary image, he said. “Libation – that’s not the American Legion.”

He encouraged posts to think in terms of the American Legion family, engaging an active Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.

Foster also urged posts to “beat your drum” and “be proud of what you’re doing” as a way to foster a strong American Legion image.

PR Session
PR Session facilitator Joseph Mondello hunddles with Legionnaires Kenny Wong, Jimmy Quan and Richard Knutson (r).

His comments spurred some discussion in the PR session, with members of one post noting that it is a “dry post” and that they get revenues to pay expenses from rental income and other fundraisers. Other Legionnaires noted that without the bars, their posts would die. The consensus seemed to be that while a bar can be important to generating funds, it should not be what the post is all about.

The PR session also zeroed in on the use of technology to foster  better communication and build membership – especially taking advantage of websites and social networking on the internet.  “Keeping abreast” and “thinking young” can make a difference, said session facilitator Joseph Mondello, PR co-chair for the NY Department.

The Pentagon and the Armed Services are using such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter, as well as maintaining active websites. So are leading companies and organizations across the country. It would behoove posts to find people to help them take advantage of the technological revolution, Mondello said.

The choice of an Ecumenical Service or Catholic Mass capped Saturday afternoon’s activities, and that was followed by a band concert/reception and banquet.

General Session
A few of the Legionnaires in the packed general session.

Sunday morning featured a general session, wrapping up a number of items of business, along with a motivational talk by NY Department Membership Chair W. Michael Bowen and presentation of donations to New York Legionnaire Fang Wong’s campaign for national commander.

Imagine what the Legion would be, Bowen said, “if every one of us just recruited one new member.”

“It’s easy” to recruit, he said. “Just go up to someone and ask, ‘Are you a veteran? …How would you like to be a member of the largest wartime veterans organization?’ ”

The New York American Legion Press Association (NYALPA) was the last group to meet Sunday morning, attracting Auxiliary members, Sons and Legionnaires interested in being Legion communicators. NYALPA fosters and gives recognition to quality news writing, publicity, newsletters and websites.

NYALPA President Kevin Harrington, a SAL member from Castleton, chaired the meeting and introduced various officers who gave reports. One of the speakers was Legionnaire Michael Duggan, who is not only involved with the state association as treasurer, but also serves as executive director of the National American Legion Press Association.

“We are the communicators,” Duggan told the group. “We have to get the word out.”

With 2010 NYALPA membership at 158 individuals and 68 posts so far, Duggan noted, “we are  the biggest press association in the country.”

Post 229 members at the conference included: Commander Tony Palladino, James Haggerty, Paul Wojcik, Frank Cassella, David Wilson, Dave Manore, Leonard Lascala and Robert Stronach.

Post 229 Auxiliary Members
Roe Haggerty, Donna Wojcik and Gail Greco are members of the Post 229 Auxiliary.
Walt Constantini
Walt Constantini, 2010-2011 Oneida Co. cmdr.
American Legion Riders
Motorcycle enthusiasts Scooter VanSlyke of Munnsville, and Valerie Horth, Regina Decarr and Emerson Horth of Oneonta promoted the American Legion Riders.
Francine Kroll
Francine Kroll told Press Assn.: family members that ride motorcycles are welcome to join Riders.
Westernville members
Westernville Post 1846 commander Mark Alger (r) visited the Oneida County hospitality suite, along with Auxiliary and SAL members Marie Alger (2nd from right), and Cindy and Ron Rutledge.
Bill Park and Paul Wojciik
Bill Park of Sherrill's Post 230 and Paul Wojcik of Utica Post 229 talked it up at the conference.
Dave and Judie Excell
Dave and Judie Excell of New Hartford Post 1376.
Len Lascala
Post 229's Len Lascala.

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William Kearsing
William Kearsing, NY Dept. commander, presided at the conference.

Jimmy Foster
Alaska's Jimmie Foster is expected to be the 2010-2011 national commander.

Michael Bowen
Michael Bowen urged everyone to recruit one member and announced a recognition program for Legionnaires who recruit ten members by the summer convention.

Fang Wong
Fang Wong is expected to be the first New Yorker in over three decades to become national commander (2011-2012 term).

Kevin Harrington
Kevin Harrington is president of the NY American Legion Press Association.

Michael Duggan
Michael Duggan, executive director of the National American Legion Press Association, addressed the NY American Legion Press Association. He also facilitated the session for Legion historians.

Walter Baker
Walter Baker, a past NY Department commander, is founder of the NY Department's Historians Association.

Dave Downey
Avid football fan Dave Downey showed up in a New York Jets jersey to present a $200 campaign check to Fang Wong on behalf of his SAL unit in Massena.

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