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‘We’re Struggling’

American Legion Seeks Support During Pandemic

Lakewood American Legion Post 1286 Commander Pete Ochocki is pictured Friday preparing a table of American flags and shirts for purchase. The legion is in need of support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. P-J photos by Jay Young

LAKEWOOD — Residents looking for an effective way to support members of the armed services this Memorial Day can do so by making purchases from American Legion posts and other local veterans establishments.

Like so many organizations, some legions are facing revenue shortfalls as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown. In order to help keep the bills paid, many are offering sales of American flags and other items.

“We’re struggling to maintain the bills,” said Pete Ochocki, commander of American Legion Post 1286 in Lakewood. “We’re behind on our utility bills; we don’t know how we’re going to shake this out when this is all over. We don’t know if we are going to be able to open.”

Lakewood Legion members have been selling T-shirts and American-made flags, which are purchased through a national American Legion distributor. Proceeds from the embroidered flags are used to help both local legions and the national American Legion.

“We’re trying to do everything we can possible to generate some income,” Ochocki said.

The Lakewood Legion is selling flags, T-shirts and lottery calendars on site from 1-4 p.m. on May 23 and May 29-31. All flags, calendars and shirts are also available for purchase at Top Shop Designs & Apparel Creations at 140 West Fairmount Avenue.

Lakewood will also host a chicken barbecue dinner on May 30-31 from 12-4 p.m. Flags cost $25, while shirts and dinners are $12.

In addition to dealing with financials troubles, members of veterans organizations will also have to watch this Memorial Day pass without the normal fanfare of parades and public ceremonies. Observances will continue in private.

“We’re just trying to keep the crowds down,” Ochocki said. “We usually read the names of our members from our post who have passed away. We’re still going to reflect on their names and call their names out in a private service.”

Ochocki expects that there will be a resurgence of memorial services when the shutdown is lifted, as veterans organizations look to honor those who have passed while public gatherings have been prohibited.

Those interested in purchasing flags and other items can contact Ochocki at peter.ochocki@yahoo.com, and the legion is also taking donations. Residents are encouraged to contact their local legions to offer financial support if possible.

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