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VFW to open picnic grove, volunteers needed for clean-up

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TOWNSEND — In West Townsend, the gathering place, the in-place to be, is the VFW. Community dinners, canoe races, breakfast, lunch are just a few of the things that happen at the “V,” or as it is more formally known, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6538.

Over time, things have come and gone.

Until the early 1980s, the pond in front was the town’s swimming hole. The Red Cross taught lessons there, said Post Commander John Whittemore. He found a newspaper article from 1963 that called the VFW recreation park a town asset.

A lifetime ago, the owner of the dam that forms the pond would release the water regularly, keeping it flushed out, said Bob Tumber, a West Townsend resident and collector of neighborhood memories.

The swimming hole is no longer open, but Whittemore plans to resurrect the park with a good cleaning of the picnic area between the pond and the post.

Over the years, saplings have sprung up, he said, but nothing too big. The post is looking for a little help from their friends to get the work done.

The official clean-up day is May 16 starting at 10 a.m. Whittemore asks volunteers to bring along brush-cutting tools and rakes. With enough people and enough time, the pond might even get a cleaning, he said.

The VFW plans to make the area between the water and the paved parking lot open to the public. “Anyone can use it,” he said.

As part of the project, the post will sell sponsorships for picnic tables. For $200, a sponsor can have a plaque on an eight-foot table and will be able to paint and decorate that table.

The picnic area is one way that Whittemore is looking to involve more veterans and their friends with the VFW.

Ongoing events also draw people to the post.

During the summer, a vintage car show brings motoring aficionados to West Townsend on Friday nights starting at 6. The new picnic tables will come in handy because the post sells hot dogs and hamburgers during the event.

Once a week at lunchtime, on Cheeseburger Wednesday, $5 will buy you a cheeseburger, side and dessert. The burgers are hand-packed, not pre-formed frozen patties, Whittemore said.

The meal, serving 30 or 40 lunches a week, is the brainchild of club manager Terri Roy. “She gets credit for that,” Whittemore said.

A free breakfast for veterans and their friends is held the last Saturday of every month. The meal is sponsored by area businesses.

The post is a social place, but members also contribute to the greater good. The Townsend post donates to the Veteran Homestead, a hospice for homeless veterans in Fitchburg. Ribbons are on sale at the post to raise awareness.

“Part of the VFW project is community service,” Whittemore said. “It’s not just for veterans.”

When he and his wife, Carlene, had a young family, they took their children to a well-child clinic. “It was at Town Hall,” he said, “They don’t do it anymore.”

Whittemore is looking for a way to bring a similar clinic to the post and have it open to families of veterans and nonveterans alike.

“I thought if we want to attract younger veterans to the VFW, we have to attract people with children,” he said.

The next time you see something happening at the V, stop by.

They would love to see you.

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