Legion Post 63 kicks off fund drive for new facility

Monday, January 7, 2002

The local American Legion wants to be more down to earth. Or at least in a building without stairs.

The Cape Girardeau post, Louis K. Juden Post 63, has announced the kickoff of a $200,000 fund-raising campaign for a new one-story building.

"We need the new building," said Melvin Amelunke, commander of the post. "Our current meeting site is upstairs, and some veterans have problems negotiating the stairs."

A one-story building would also allow more veterans from the area Veteran's Home to visit and attend meetings, Amelunke said.

The proposed facility, near the former Elks Lodge in the 2700 block of Thomas Drive, would also offer more parking, meeting and banquet facilities, said John Dragoni Sr., a co-chairman of the fund campaign. The Legion already owns an empty lot there.

The new building would cover 4,000 square feet, same as the Legion's current meeting place at 811-A Broadway, where the post has met since 1926.

The post owns the building on Broadway and will offer it for sale. A sports shop occupies the lower level of the building.

"We're hoping for a spring start on a new building," said Gene Rhodes, a businessman, veteran and co-chairman of the fund campaign with Dragoni. The post wouldn't have to collect all $200,000 before starting construction.

Three phases

The campaign started with letters to the 351 members of the post. The second phase of the campaign will be letters to businesses and other prospective donors.

"Following that phase, we have two-person teams ready to start calling on businesses and individuals," said Dragoni. "We think the people will respond to our campaign. The American Legion has conducted a number of fund campaigns in the past, for community projects, but this is the first time we're asking people to help us for us."

Plaques, to be placed inside the new facility, will contain donors' names.

Joining Rhodes and Dragoni on the fund-raising committee are Tom Giles, Lory Stahly, Melvin Amelunke, Dean Monahan, Floyd Smith, Lloyd Young, Bert Lehmann, Ron McCubbin and John Powers.

The Legion is involved in a number of programs in Cape Girardeau, such as two teams of American Legion Baseball, American Legion Boys and Girls State, school awards, a flag education program, patriotic holiday observance programs, maintenance of Freedom Corner and Cape Rock Park, color guard services and financial and volunteer support for the Veteran's Home.

Post 63 was the driving force behind the naming of the Missouri mule as the official state animal, and it initiated funding and creation of the chapel at the Veteran's Home.

Membership has fluctuated over the years, from about 200 members to an early post-World War II peak of more than 600. The post now has members from World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and from battles during the 1990s, Amelunke said.

The post was named for Lt. Louis K. Juden, a Cape Girardeau man who lost his life during World War I, and was chartered in 1920.


335-6611, extension 133

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