Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – In searching for reasons why the Arcata Veterans Memorial Building has been operating without necessary permits and other regulatory necessities, a partial explanation may be found in a separate initiative being pursued by American Legion Post 274 Commander Jeff Sterling and some of his associates.
Recent revelations include the Vets Hall’s lack of a county health permit for its serving food to the public prepared in its kitchen, the failure of a state health inspection for commercial food vendors who rented the kitchen, the lack of a City of Arcata business license for hall activities, and the Legion post’s lack of a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is required to operate a nonprofit organization.
The lack of a Legion EIN may be because Sterling et al are attempting to form their own nonprofit organization, one called Arcata Veterans Group. Its somewhat dated but functional website, shared with Post 274 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Mad River Post 2542, includes a sub-heading of “Lost Coast Veterans Association.”
The “Donate or Volunteer” page on the website advertises Arcata Veterans Group as “a non-profit veterans organization 501 (c) 19 consisting of local veterans and their families.”
The IRS says a 501 (c) 19 “provides for the tax-exempt status of qualifying veterans' organizations and their related auxiliaries that are organized in the United States or any of its possessions.”
States the Arcata Veterans Group website, “To continue in our efforts to maintain community values and sponsoring other community non-profits, we seek help from local businesses.”
It further states, “Our non-profit organization relies on donations and volunteering from citizen heroes to maintain the building, put on events and provide community outreach.”
Underneath the donation pitch are active buttons one may click to join the group and to make donations via PayPal. Between the buttons are displayed the official seals of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force.
However, the IRS’s nonprofit lookup website includes no listing for anything called “Arcata Veterans Group” or “Lost Coast Veterans Association.”
Members of the Arcata Veterans Group’s even-numbered board are listed as Commander Sterling, Executive Officer Lawrence Irvine, Auxiliary President Sophia Bogner and Auxiliary V.P. Alison Robbins.
Sterling speaks of the Arcata Veterans Group in the future tense. At the conclusion of last week’s tumultuous monthly meeting of Legion Post 274, he offered appreciation to fellow boardmembers.
“I want to personally thank Sophia from her start at the get-go of helping with Alison in the founding the Arcata Veterans Group that we’re trying to establish,” Sterling said.
The website also pitches the availability of the hall’s unpermitted “commercial kitchen,” with rental rates.
The Arcata Vets Hall and Legion currently has no Finance Officer, and it appears Sterling is managing the hall’s books. It's not clear whether the Arcata Veterans Group has accepted any donations.
Sterling no longer responds to inquiries from the Mad River Union.
Note: the writer is a member of American Legion Post 274. – Ed.