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Veterans Memorial Center

We pledge to build, to preserve and maintain the memories, medals and equipment of the Veterans of all wars; To ensure we never forget our veterans and why we remain a free country!

Newspaper Article 2015

FARGO — Local veterans groups need to raise at least $2.3 million to build a multipurpose Veterans Memorial Center on nearly 2 acres of donated land south of Interstate 94 and west of Sheyenne Street in West Fargo. 

The immediate focus will be to raise $500,000 to $1 million so construction can get started in the spring, said Orlyen Stensgard, Co-Chairman of the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial Center Committee.

A dozen vets met at the Fargo Air Museum on Thursday to get an update on the project, plan a fundraising strategy and elect new officers for the memorial center committee.

Plans for the center have changed considerably from a year ago when the idea was first publicly floated. But there's lots of good news in those changes.

According to cost estimates shared Thursday, the group needs at least $2.3 million to build a 10,000-square-foot facility to house the offices of veterans groups, provide meeting space and create a museum.

That's a welcome shift from the original $5 million estimate for a 5,000-square-foot facility.

Another big plus is the land donation. The 1.93 acres donated by the Loberg family is on the northeast side of the Brooks Harbor housing development, next to the Sheyenne Diversion channel. An original estimate of the land needed was 3.5 acres at $762,300. If the value of the land in hand is similar in its price per acre, that means the group saved at least $420,000.

"That's a pretty nice donation," said Terry Richardson, secretary for the Veterans Memorial Center Committee and commander of United Patriotic Bodies.

The group has only about $9,000 in the bank so far, Richardson said.

A good share of the donations have been from veterans, though Richardson said the idea was to not hit up veterans' groups to pay for the center.

"We need to work harder on the donation type of thing," he said.

"Everybody's behind it. We're trying to get some funds. You got about $3 million you can donate?" the Vietnam War vet joked before the meeting.

Groups represented on the memorial center committee include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Stensgard, who served in the Army during the Korean War, said the goal is to finish construction of the center in 12 to 18 months.

The fundraising focus will have to be on immediate capital donations, rather than longer-term gifts garnered from charitable trusts and wills, said board member Arnie Ellingson. He suggested the group start by contacting corporations and wealthy individuals who have a track record of giving, and begin a broader campaign for individual donations.

Veterans groups have seen their numbers drop considerably over the years.

When Stensgard led the Fargo American Legion in 1971, the group had about 3,700 members. Now, membership has dwindled to about 1,000. Younger veterans are less inclined to drink and socialize in veterans clubs, he said, which shrinks revenues for the groups.

For smaller clubs in the region, the center will be a backup as a place to continue meeting.

"If somebody does go down the tubes, they'll have a place to go. We'll always have a place for veterans," Stensgard said.

Helmut Schmidt, author hschmidt@forumcomm.com (701) 241-5583