‘Veterans helping veterans’: Amherst VFW uses money from sale of post to pay off Florence VFW’s mortgage

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 09-04-2023 5:46 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Proceeds from the sale of the Amherst Veterans of Foreign Wars building to the town have been used to pay off the Florence VFW’s mortgage, an event recently celebrated with a burning of the mortgage papers.

The town of Amherst acquired the former VFW building on Main Street for $775,000 in February to build an affordable housing development on the property. As negotiations were underway before the purchase was officially made, Amherst VFW Commander Gamalier Rosa approached the VFW Post 8006 in Florence about a potential merger of the two organizations, as well as having the Amherst VFW pay off the Florence chapter’s $115,000 mortgage on its building, located at 18 Meadow St.

“They were going to have a healthy bit of proceeds from the sale of the building, so I said it would be a shot in our arm if you could pay off our mortgage,” Florence VFW Commander Tom Pease said. “It was a win-win situation all around.”

Eventually, Amherst VFW members decided to merge with the South Hadley chapter, due to its closer proximity to Amherst. But they made good on their promise regarding the Florence chapter’s mortgage, paying it off in its entirety in July.

“That’s what I call veterans helping veterans,” Pease said. “We don’t have a mortgage to worry about month to month now, and we can take some of the proceeds that we earn every month and do things for the community.”

The Florence VFW decided to celebrate the occasion with a mortgage-burning party, held Aug. 27 with around 100 people attending. Guests at the event included the Massachusetts VFW State Commander James Morrisey.

Following the dinner, there was a posting of the colors and a salute of the flag, followed by placing the mortgage papers in a metal bucket and lighting it ablaze.

Founded in 1946 by returning veterans from World War II, VFW Post 8006 is named after Michael Curtin, who died when the plane he was on was shot down over France on a bombing mission during World War II in 1943.

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The Florence chapter has played a role in several community events in the village, including sponsoring numerous sports teams, helping organize the village’s Memorial Day parade and starting what is now believed to be the longest continuous Rag Shag Parade in the country. The Florence VFW also founded an Easter Egg hunt within the village, although the event has not taken place since the start of the pandemic.

The Amherst Town Council at its Jan. 9 meeting authorized the money for the purchase of the town’s VFW building, coming from a significant portion of $1 million reserved for homeless services and transitional housing in November 2021. That money, in turn, was from the $11.9 million received by the town in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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