American Legion Post 243 one of few dry posts bringing awareness to mental health

The FOX 35 Care Force Award was presented to the American Legion Post 243 for their work helping veterans and bringing awareness to mental health needs. 

Every Wednesday morning, these veterans meet at the post for coffee and a chat. But what really makes this post so unique is that it is a dry post – one of the very few throughout the state. 

The weekly tradition draws dozens of veterans.

Members gather for weekly Wednesday coffee and conversation

"Just get together and tell stories that for lack of a better term," said Commander Brad Sokoly. "Civilians don’t relate with and that sets us apart, and we seem to be the way that American Legions in the future should be turning to."

There are plenty of coffee mugs to go around, but one thing you won’t ever see here is a beer on tap.

"We’re a dry post and a lot of the VFWs and American Legion Posts – they have alcohol," said Bob Pizzurro, the Sergeant of Arms for the American Legion Post 243. "When you start drinking in these posts, you lose track of what you’re doing and why you’re there. Everybody comes here for one reason."

Bob Pizzuro, Sergeant of Arms for the American Legion Post 243

It has become their motto: "Serving veterans, not alcohol."

"One of my main things as becoming commander is mental health awareness," Sokoly said. "PTS awareness, veteran suicide, veteran homelessness and it just doesn’t go well in a bar setting. They have their places. Other posts are terrific. They’re a time and a place. I believe we can focus more on veterans without having distractions like having to maintain a bar."

Their outreach isn’t just making a difference, it’s growing their membership.

Now at 273 members, these veterans have outgrown their post built in 1957 with a maximum capacity of 55.

"The joke is we have to open the doors and let the people walk outside because if the inspectors come and see, we’re over 55," Pizzurro said.

Members gather for weekly Wednesday coffee and conversation

For now they’re making do with the outdoor space surrounding the building, but there are big plans to extend.

For the past three years, they have been raising money for their Heritage Campaign, which will fund the addition.

Proposed Expansion Concept for American Legion Post 243

"I can’t wait to see it get expanded," Pizzurro said. "It’s very hard. We’ve tapped out pretty much the guys inside if you will. Now we’re going after grants to get money that way. As you can see we need it desperately. We want to have dinners. We want to have functions in there which we really can’t do at this point."

These veterans have served their country, continue to serve their fellow veterans and are committed to fulfilling their mission with the help of a nice cup of coffee.