After a seven-year rest, the Weehawken Veterans of Foreign Wars hall is back in business.
Located at 309 Park Ave., just down the street from the Town Hall and near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, the facility has reopened with a series of new programs aimed at welcoming veterans and reaching out to the local community.
To reintroduce themselves, the Veterans of Foreign Wars are hosting a flea market on Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tables will span the sidewalk in front of the building as well as the empty lot and the small, enclosed street to the south, which will be blocked off for the event.
“The idea of the flea market was to generate some exposure,” explained Chuck Barone, commander of the Weehawken VFW post for the past five years. “We thought it would be nice to do it on an annual basis, just as kind of a gathering in the community, get people to come together. We’ll have our tent set up outside and we’ll have information about the veterans’ organization, the things we do. If anybody wants to join we’ll have membership applications.”
Those interested in participating can call 201-232-0766. The cost is $20 for a six-by-nine space, a table and a chair. Individual sellers keep all their profits.
“We make money just on the sale of the tables,” said Barone. “All our money is generated through donations and fundraisers and that’s what we use for these programs in the community.”
Helping the Community
“We’ve always been community oriented as far as sponsoring Little League teams and programs in the schools,” continues Barone. “We have a program called Veterans in the Schools where we go into the grammar schools and the high school and we talk about the history of the veteran over the years and what Memorial Day means and what Veterans Day means and why we celebrate these holidays. And the kids enjoy it. They ask a lot of questions about your time in the service.”
“There’s a lot of young kids coming back from these wars that carry a lot of baggage.” – Chuck Barone
“During Sandy, we had some veterans who were in need of some help and we helped them with some money,” he said. “That’s what we do. We’re here to help.”
Originally erected in 1899 as the Weehawken police station and Town Hall, the building was leased to the VFW for one dollar a year when the town moved to the larger facility up the street.
“This has been our home for 83 years, since this post was founded,” said Barone. Unfortunately, time took its toll on the structure, and seven years ago, the VFW was forced to close the building, holding meetings on the fly in the Town Hall or the St. Lawrence Church community center.
“We’re grateful to the mayor that he finally had the building rehabbed because it was in such bad shape,” he said. “We now share the building. The Weehawken Historical Society is on the third floor and stores their archives up there. The second floor is our meeting hall and banquet hall and we share that with the historical society if they want to have an event and display stuff to the public. It’s kind of a community room.”
In addition to regular VFW meetings on the third Thursday of every month, the building is open to members on Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday nights for the football season. It is also available for rental.
“That hall upstairs was a major kind of fundraiser for us over the years, and being closed for seven years, we took a big hit,” Barone said. “We’re trying to generate exposure, trying to generate money so we can get some of these programs revitalized and maybe get into a few more, some scholarship programs in the high school.”
Veterans to Veterans Night
To be a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, one must have served in a combat area or received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. In an outreach to the community, the Weehawken VFW is hosting their first “Veterans to Veterans Night” on Oct. 11, beginning at 7 p.m.
“You don’t have be a member of the post,” Barone said. “All you have to do is be a veteran. The idea was to let veterans in the area that are not members of the organization know we’re here, we’re available if you want to come down and talk or find out what programs are available for you here.”
Barone, a Vietnam veteran, is concentrating his attention on younger vets. “There’s a lot of young kids coming back from these wars that carry a lot of baggage,” he said. “I’ve met some of them. Some of them are reluctant to talk. Some of them you can see that they want to talk but… it’s a funny thing. Veterans will open up to other veterans, you know, to kind of get some of the pressure off their chest, where they’re reluctant to do so with their own family. We can help veterans who need help. But they have to know where to come. That’s why we’re here.”