Avon American Legion Serves Veterans and Community
Writer / Heather Chastain Photography Provided
The Avon American Legion is leading and loving its community and members. In fact, the general public is welcome to visit the building and attend events the Legion hosts any time. Members also encourage those interested to join the Legion through small yearly dues – between $25 and $45 depending on level of eligibility.
Membership benefits include, but are not limited to, the ability to purchase alcohol for yourself or your guests. If you rent out the Legion facility, you get a sizable discount. Membership allows you to visit Posts worldwide.
In the wake of COVID, the American Legion has seen a tremendous increase in facility rentals. Commander Mike Welsh says the building was almost booked solid throughout the summer. Once things began to open back up, people started utilizing the Legion for graduation parties, proms, weddings and many types of receptions.
In addition to its rental hall, the Legion also supports organizations like the Avon Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club and Boy Scout Troop 123. The Avon American Legion is home to the Westside Sea Cadets, which is a program for young men and women aged 10 to 18 who have a desire to be part of the U.S. Navy at some point in their future.
COVID has created struggles for everyone, including the Avon American Legion.
“We suffered like every other organization,” Welsh says. “We were closed for eight weeks.”
The mission of the American Legion is to support veterans and military personnel still serving.
“Our biggest charity contributions are money, supplies, and meeting the many needs of homeless veterans in Indianapolis,” Welsh says.
The American Legion offers lunches at reasonable prices for veterans and other community members. Fortunately, the lunch program has been very successful. You can dine with friends and veterans Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Mike Welsh has given his great gifts and his service to his family, country and military. Welsh has been a member of the Legion for 49 years. His father was commander of the Knightstown American Legion. When Welsh first moved out west, he maintained his Knightstown membership until he became fully invested in Post 145, the Avon location. Welsh has been a member of the Avon American Legion Post for 15 years.
“I developed a passion for seeing this Post grow,” he says. “One of the best ways to do that was to become more involved in the community itself. In order to fulfill our mission, this place has to be run like a business.”
One of the ways the commander worked to make the Post more successful was to focus on increasing membership.
“The membership has more than doubled in the past five years,” Welsh says. “We now have roughly 1,300 members.”
It was no easy rise to the top. Once Welsh decided he wanted to be Post commander, he threw his hat into the ring for the election. Elections happen every year. The year was 2014-2015, and Welsh lost.
“I learned a lot from that loss,” the 75-year-old war veteran says. “I took a year off from the board. I ran again the following year and won. I learned you can’t just put your name in a hat. You have to explain to people why you should be commander. It takes time and effort to do that.”
When asked about retirement plans, he chuckles.
“That’s a very good question,” says Welsh, who is known to most of his friends by the nickname Dollar Mike, or just Dollar. “I just started my sixth year as commander. I was talking to a gentleman over a beer one day and he asked, ‘Do you consider yourself successful?’ I thought about it for a minute and then said yes. I worked hard all my life and put all of my kids through college at Indiana University Bloomington. My kids have no college debts and they are more successful than I am. Success is measured a lot of different ways. It just depends on what it means to you. My wife, my successful children and my grandchildren are my reason for living. It’s not up to anyone else to measure your success except you.”
Avon Post 145 has been financially successful as well. When the branch was moved from its original location off of State Road 267, Post leaders were able to use the buyout money from the town to buy the land where they currently reside on East Main Street. They built a pavilion that allows them to have outside events, bands and cookouts. Once the facility rental took off, members decided it was important to them to provide a quality experience, so they updated the rental tables and chairs, among other upgrades.
If you are considering joining the Legion to help support their mission and see it continue to grow in the Avon community, there are a few different levels of membership. You can be a Legionnaire, a member of the Sons of the American Legion, or part of the Auxiliary. Your military service or family member’s service determines the group in which you qualify for membership.
In July of 2020, Congress passed a law stating that anyone who served in the military from December of 1941 onward was eligible to be a member of the Legion. Before 2020, only those who served during active wartime qualified.
“That law helped a lot,” Welsh says. “It was an unfortunate situation and it was finally corrected.”
When Welsh decides to take a break, he enjoys playing golf. He’s been a member of Prestwick Country Club for 27 years. He’s married and has three children, two stepchildren and 11 grandkids.
The commander officially retired in 2014 and began focusing solely on helping the Avon American Legion grow. He originally went to work for Danners Inc., a regional retail chain, shortly after he graduated from high school in 1964 in Spiceland, Indiana. He began his own company when he left Danners, after a 20-year stint that included becoming vice president of merchandise. Welsh Co. International was a company that supplied the American retail market with products from all parts of Asia, specifically China. This was before the growth of Walmart and other big-box retailers.
“When I first started shopping for our retailers as an agent, it was uncommon for most buyers to shop overseas, especially in China,” Welsh says. “In 1984 the retail market turned into a global market. The purpose was to supply merchandise to the retail trade at a lower cost.”
Welsh says China became more accessible in 1985 and 1986.
“China began allowing more foreign agents to travel inside their country,” he says. “Before then, it was hard to get into China. Then more and more retailers began traveling to Asia once they began to open up.”
He took a leave of absence from 1967 to 1969 to join the Army. Welsh underwent basic training in Fort Ord, California, then took advanced training.
“Because I had business experience, I spent my entire time in the United States as a clerk typist,” he says. “I never deployed to Vietnam. It made my family happy. It gave me a much deeper respect for those combat soldiers with their boots on the ground.”
You can learn more about the Avon American Legion Post 145 by visiting avonlegion.org. You can also call them at 317-386-8911, or stop by 4812 East Main Street in Avon.