Attrition is taking its toll on the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Leslie L. Garratt Post 6359 in San Juan Bautista, but a new rule is designed to expand membership that for more than a century was restricted to “the female relatives of those who have served in overseas combat,” according to the ladies auxiliary national website.
The auxiliary was founded decades ago by the late Mary Sellen of San Juan Bautista. Though the chapter counts 66 members, only eight are active, according to Vera Alnas Clark, who serves as its secretary and treasurer. Clark’s dual roles and the dwindling number of active members are part of a trend affecting VFW ladies auxiliaries nationwide.
Elderly members typically leave the organization without younger women filing their shoes, and lacking membership a chapter often closes, forcing those who remain to seek functioning auxiliaries far from home. Clark recalled that when the Spreckels’ chapter closed, several of it members made the 30-minute drive north to San Juan.
Last month, the VFW’s national governing body passed a resolution that should bolster auxiliary membership. Beginning Aug. 21, male spouses and relatives will be eligible to join a VFW auxiliary.
The San Juan chapter, which on Sunday, Aug. 9 will host its first-ever pancake breakfast, is hoping to benefit from the policy change. Its president, Vivian Serrano, is very supportive of the idea, stating that including men within the auxiliary is “going to be a great addition.” Clark agrees and added, “[i]f you don’t change with the times, it’s [your organization] going to die out.”
Until the policy takes effect, Clark explained that she and her seven fellow members are busy recruiting new faces and making incremental changes in hopes of reinvigorating the once moribund auxiliary.
Two recent members include Patsy Patino and Stephanie Sanchez. Both from Hollister, the sisters were raised in the City of History. Their father, the late Nicholas Lopez of San Juan, served in the Korean War and was a member of VFW Post 6359. Honoring her father’s memory and patriotism is what spurred Patino’s interest in the auxiliary. “I am living my father’s legacy of fighting in the war for our country…plus I feel like I am helping the community,” Patino said in a recent text message.
Clark also noted that in an effort to accommodate its working members the auxiliary now meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the San Juan post instead of the 1 p.m. meeting time that existed for decades.
The funds raised from the pancake breakfast will benefit veterans, their families, and the community. Scholarships for college-bound students and contributions to improve local parks include some of this year’s beneficiaries.
"To capitalize on the crowd," Clark stated, the auxiliary scheduled this Sunday’s breakfast on the same day as San Juan’s Annual Antique & Collectibles Fair, an event that typically draws thousands of antiquarians who go in search of great buys and who find respite from the August sun in one of the city’s restaurants.
The Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post 6359 hopes that visitors begin their Sunday morning with its historic pancake breakfast.
Breakfast will be served from 7-11 a.m. at post headquarters, 58 Monterey St. in San Juan Bautista.
Cost is $7 and includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, potatoes and a beverage. Guests can pay an additional $3 for a mimosa.
Tickets can be purchased in advanced or at the door.
For tickets, call Vivian Serrano at (831) 638-1411 or Vera Alnas Clark at, (831) 623-4796.
If interested in joining the auxiliary or making a contribution to its fundraising efforts, contact Vivian Serrano at (831) 638-1411.