Harmony-Evans City VFW unveils new, ‘smoke-free’ canteen
EVANS CITY — Seated at a massive, handmade bar in Harmony-Evans City Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 499, commander Jack Skelly said he hoped the location’s new canteen would attract the next generation of veterans.
“There’s an age group of younger veterans out there that I’m trying to attract,” he said. “Over half the veterans we have are over the age of 65. I’m one of those guys.”
A yearlong project to convert the post’s former event room into a canteen concluded Monday, Dec. 4, Skelly said, with the goal being to create a more-welcoming environment for current and potential members.
“We’ve heard from numerous places, including the state VFW, that say if you have a nonsmoking, family-friendly environment in the community — with events — you will get them,” he said.
To that end, the post is christening its new “smoke-free canteen” with an open house Dec. 15, in an evening of live music, prizes, snacks and drink specials. The post is at 408 N. Washington St., Evans City.
“It’s open to the public, 4 to 7 p.m.,” he said. “We’re allowed to do that three times a year.”
And while volunteers will be on hand to sign up new members, Skelly emphasized that the smoke-free canteen was also meant to retain current members.
“I’m hoping regular members keep coming,” he said. “There was a lot of, ‘Hey, we don’t want to come in and smell like an ashtray.’”
Schera Frobe, canteen steward, added that the smoke-free environment would also allow veterans with health issues to visit the club.
She said veterans such as her father-in-law, who was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, cannot be around cigarettes.
“I’m hoping that for more veterans like him that have health problems — that couldn’t be around cigarettes — we’ll be able to give them a place that they can go and hang out,” she said.
Harmony and Evans City’s merged Veterans of Foreign Wars post boasts a membership of 86 veterans — spanning service from World War II to recent conflicts in the Middle East.
“Our mission is to ensure camaraderie and make sure that veterans get taken care of,” Skelly said. “We do more for veterans than anybody else.”
National efforts by the organization include passing the federal PACT Act last year which addressed health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances.
But at the local level, Skelly said the post supports outreach programs as well as community events to “do more” for local veterans.
“We had a family festival here last summer, and they were able to give money to Guitars for Veterans,” he said. “We’ve got 12 veterans in that program with 12 guitars and they all graduated the program.”
Frobe said the group also supports a local care home for veterans as well as community organizations in the municipalities.
“Every year we donate money to EDCO Park, to the library in Evans City, to the Lions Club, to the volunteer fire department, to Harmony ambulance,” she said. “We’re also very involved in the community.”
And at the heart of it all, Skelly said the post’s canteen has a “life of its own,” hosting events and holidays — including an upcoming visit from Santa Claus on Dec. 16.
With that in mind, the new canteen is only the “first phase” of the group’s expansion, according to Skelly which includes opening a new kitchen on New Year’s Day.
“We don’t have the staff right now, and we’ve got some more appliances that we want to buy, but Shera’s hired a chef that’s going to come in and take care of us,” he said.
And Skeely said long-term plans include opening up the kitchen to the public as well as added amenities to attract more members.
“We’re trying to get more involved,” Frobe said, “and bring the community in.”
For more information on joining the Harmony-Evans City VFW as a full member, auxiliary member or social member, contact 724-538-9070 or visit vfw.org.