Charerloi VFW to shut its doors following New Year’s Eve party

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CHARLEROI – Members of Arden Calvert Veterans of Foreign Wars in Charleroi will be living out the lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” when they gather next week at the club for a New Year’s Eve party.

The veterans will be taking their final “cups of kindness” Tuesday in the VFW Post 167 bar, which will close permanently that night because of dwindling membership.

“It was down to three men operating the place,” post Cmdr. Gus Caterini said. “Nobody’s interested.”

Caterini said the club had 1,800 members when he joined it in 1968 after serving in the U.S. Marines in the Vietnam War.

He said the three officers agreed to pay for five newspaper advertisements seeking membership before the last meeting Dec. 18, when only seven people showed up at the club at 609 McKean Ave.

“There was no participation at all,” said Caterini of Belle Vernon.

The club organized in 1935, and its membership grew rapidly following World War II when it hosted live shows and popular Saturday night dances.

The organization, however, has been struggling for more than a decade, prompting it to sell the banquet room building about eight years ago, said Donn Henderson, Charleroi’s borough manager.

That building since has been used for a variety of purposes, including a warehouse and as a small concert hall featuring punk rock bands.

The post was struggling financially and facing closure in 2004 when a homeless and disabled veteran died there while living in a cloakroom. The borough’s code enforcer later evicted a man living in a bathroom and another who was bedding down in the kitchen.

Caterini, who was not post commander in 2004, said he assumes Charleroi-area veterans are no longer interested in having a VFW.

He said the national VFW will be notified of the club’s decision to close and guide the three officers on how to proceed with disposing of its assets.

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