WEBSTER?CITY?- Legionnaires representing the eighth district of the American Legion in Iowa convened at post 191 in Webster City on Sunday for the district's fall conference. The eighth district represents Boone. Calhoun, Carroll, Crawford, Emmet, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Webster and Winnebago counties.
Membership numbers are looking good this year for the district, according to department membership chairman Jim Demarest. There are 3,472 members who have given dues for the 2013 year in the eighth district, with a total goal of 5,453, according to a Legion bulletin. The Legion offers monetary incentives for districts to hit membership goals for next year. The eighth district has already hit a goal of 60 percent before Oct. 1 .
Demarest encouraged legionnaires to recruit new members or bring absent members back. That is because a national due increase of $5 will not go into effect until the beginning of next year. Demarest also said he wants Iowa to return to its number one spot in membership, which it held in years past. It currently sits at fifth.
Demarest also spoke about his candidacy for department commander. He said his slogan for the department convention in Sioux City in July would be "Service, serving our communities." He said the state of the Legion in some communities has deteriorated.
"When the Legion was founded and the posts were established, they soon became the centers of the community. Everyone knew where the Legion hall was," Demarest said. "The Legion is 94 years old now and throughout the years this has declined quite a bit for various reasons.
With Legion posts out of the limelight, Demarest said posts should act as a boy scout working to become an eagle scout. They should work hard to create a positive presence in their hometowns.
"Do a project in your community. Let the community know you're there. Get the Legion name where it should be, at the top of the list in your community."
Former department commander Jerry Sebben also spoke about his candidacy for alternate NEC, national executive committeeman. He said the NEC is the executive power of the Legion. They review resolutions from posts and serve as greeters and representatives for the department.
"This gives me an opportunity to pay you back. To represent you as great legionnaires and the department of Iowa at the national level," Sebben said.
Current department commander Lyle Schaffer unveiled a new program to incentive and promote activity at each post in the state. Awards will be given to posts that complete at least five of seven categories, which include increasing membership, community participation, assisting veterans and more. Schaffer said he planned this, 'pick five to stay alive' program was planned with his community in mind.
"If my post in a town of 300 can do it, I expect other posts will be able to as well," Schaffer said.
The conference hosted a number of other speakers, including Sons of the American Legion detachment vice commander Bob Rosenboom. He said donations from SAL had totaled $63,394 from 39 squadrons. Nationally, Rosenboom said SAL members had spent over 500,000 hours in volunteer work.
Rosenboom also bestowed the 2012 national membership award to eighth district vice commander Roger McNeil, who started a squadron in Livermore. Rosenboom said that squadron has grown to be one of the largest.
The conference also hosted a banquet at the Moose lodge in Webster City, and heard further reports about Americanism, Legion sports, national affairs and more at their afternoon session.