The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 26, 2012

American Legion: State law could decrease charitable donations

DANVILLE — If a law related to small games of chance isn’t changed, the Danville American Legion’s ability to help the community will be reduced drastically, according to Post 40 officials.

The Legion donated $100,000 to non-profit organizations this year.

“We are in a cost reduction crunch. We are trying to reduce some overhead costs. We will have to make some adjustments to comply with the law if the legislators don’t tweak it,” Post Commander Dean VonBlohn said. “The money we have given back this year will be drastically reduced.”

While State House Bill 169 allows the Legion to pay out $25,000 per week in prizes from small games of chance, it has dramatically increased work for bar employees. Filing reports for small games of chance has quadrupled. “This is a major problem,” said VonBlohn, adding other organizations are also affected.

The Legion isn’t allowed to use small games of chance revenue to pay wages. “We are doing a time study of the bar and are trying to put a number on how much time the bar staff is spending on small games of chance. It looks like 35 to 40 percent of their time is spent on gambling-related work,” he said.

He has alerted state Rep. Kurt Masser to this and told Masser when gambling is heavy, they have to bring in additional staff “and we’re eating that cost. It’s not a free ride. We do need to have the law tweaked to help us defray some of these costs.”

“We want to continue giving back to the community. This year alone we have given $105,443,” he said, noting it was a dramatic increase compared to 2011 because more payouts were allowed this year. He didn’t have an exact figure for last year.

The Legion has been licensed for small games of chance since 1988.

In the past, they were allowed to pay out $5,000 per week in prizes.

“We still had to split the money with 65 percent going to public interest or nonprofits and 35 percent used for certain bills but not wages, alcohol and food,” VonBlohn said.

Amounts donated to non-profit organizations need to be given in the same calendar year as proceeds unless the state Department of Revenue is notified they will be retained for a specific large purchase or project.

VonBlohn said they can use games of chance revenues for utility costs, including heat, air conditioning, water and sewer, a mortgage, interior and exterior repairs and some new construction.

“When you see the administrators of Jubilee Kitchen and the Community Tree Program receiving large amounts from the Legion, it really helps them with their budgets. There are more and more people standing in line,” VonBlohn said.

The Legion recently donated $2,500 to the Red Cross, which serves the Danville, Bloomsburg and Berwick areas.

Executive Director Rita Inklovich said the chapter expects to use the funds to help military personnel.

VonBlohn said the Red Cross helped when his son, Dean Jr., of Sunbury, was serving with the Army in Germany so he could call home to his parents.

Former post commander Carl Appleman recalled nurses from the Red Cross aiding soldiers when he was stationed in Vietnam.

“We appreciate anything you can give us,” Inklovich told post officials.

“We know the Red Cross is there and that severe weather has put a strain on it with the east coast still trying to dig out,” VonBlohn said.

The largest amount the Legion gave to an organization was $13,500 for the fountain to be placed this spring in River Front Park. The Legion gave $3,500 and later was approached by organizers about the fundraising campaign falling short of the goal. Legionnaries gave an additional $10,000 to help with installation and maintenance.

The 1,300-member organization holds public, monthly $7 dinners 10 times a year to raise money for non-profit organizations.

Scouts were among the groups that benefited most. The Legion gave $10,800 to scouting organizations, including five donations to Eagle Scout projects and a fundraising dinner for Scouts.

“When we do the dinners, we ask them to send people to help with the dinner,” VonBlohn said of the non-profit organizations. “Only one Boy Scout troop showed up so they got all the $2,000,” he said.

Appleman said the Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion have held fundraisers and donated to community projects.

“With all the money we have given away, it is comforting to know we have helped the community and will continue to give back. We would like the community and members to support the club,” VonBlohn said.

Appleman invited veterans to join the post, which is open daily.

“It’s not the cost of the dues that’s an issue. It’s the cost they have paid personally. They have the right to join and should take advantage of that,” VonBlohn said.


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