By Stefanie Donahue
Lately, membership and volunteer participation at the Birch Bay-based American Legion post has reached a notable low. After a few months on the job, on-site volunteer Kirk Hayes is trying to make a change.
Hayes is a fifth generation Whatcom County resident and recently took on multiple titles with the American Legion Peace Arch Post 86 in Birch Bay. As the legion’s sergeant at arms and service officer he acts as the first point of contact for legion members seeking assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The American Legion is the largest national nonprofit organization serving wartime veterans in locations throughout the United States. All members must be a wartime veteran, a family member of a veteran or an active-duty service member.
Success of each branch location depends on membership, participation and volunteer assistance.
Hayes served in the army for nine years and credits the legion for being one of the few places he feels completely understood.
“Inside of this building, we get it,” he said. “It is a brotherhood here.”
He transferred to Birch Bay’s post just a few months ago after spending time with the community at Bellingham-based Post 7.
Friday through Sunday, Hayes and volunteers take part in a host of activities that typically include dinner and entertainment. Weekend activities and a $55 yearly membership fee help to generate funds for the post.
Membership dues and activity fees aside, the local chapter also attempts to generate revenue by renting space at the property, including a parking lot with 15 RV spots and electrical hookups, a green space to be used for parties, weddings or camping and a few covered sitting areas.
Hayes said there have only been a few renters since he began volunteering with the post in the summer.
“We need help,” Hayes said. “There are so many activities that can be happening here. But we need people.”
Despite receiving special training from the legion, his work assisting legion members in gaining access to resources available through the VA has proven difficult due to the lack of activity and awareness in the community, he said.
“This post has not facilitated anyone in 20 years,” he said. “I’m here to change that.”
For Hayes, maintaining vitality and growth of the community at Post 86 is crucial and he has a few things to look forward to.
The post just received a $14,000 grant from The Home Depot to repair the existing handicapped ramp that accesses the building.
In addition, a few American Legion Riders, or “motorcycle enthusiasts,” as Hayes calls them, plan an escorted ride through Blaine for the nonprofit veterans support organization Our Heroes’ Dreams on 9/11.
To learn more about American Legion Peace Arch Post 86, visit blaineamericanlegionpost86.com or email Kirk Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.