CLARK — VFW Post 7363, at 6 Broadway, Clark, has been closed since March 2020 – the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. It hasn’t reopened because major repairs are needed. The roof was leaking. Air conditioning needs fixing. And bathrooms need to be handicap accessible.
A fundraiser to help the VFW will be at the Union County Performing Arts Center on Friday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m. The fundraiser will feature Conner Lorre, who will be performing the music of Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond. Lorre is a critically acclaimed singer who performs internationally.
Once the VFW is repaired, the plan is to create a center for local citizens, according to Bill Caruso, a Korean War veteran, who has been a long-time member of the Clark NJ VFW, and a resident of Clark for more than 50 years. Once he got out of the Korean War, he began getting involved with the VFW.
“People can come for the day and go back home at night,” he said. “It’s a wonderful idea, but money is needed to fix up the building. Every dollar (from the fundraiser) is going to be used to fix up the building.”
Caruso, who served as councilman in Clark for 10 years, said he spent most of his life organizing fundraisers and is helping to put the UCPAC show together. “Hopefully, we’ll raise thousands of dollars to fix the building,” he said. “It’s a wonderful idea.”
In addition to the other major repairs, Caruso said they plan on putting offices on the second floor and an elevator. “It’s expensive, so we’re doing everything we can to raise funds.”
Caruso is also excited about the performance of Lorre, who he was able to convince to come in from Las Vegas. Caruso was involved in the entertainment industry a long time ago, working fundraisers at Sands Hotel and Casino until it closed. He kept close ties with many of the entertainment agents and was able to get Lorre for the show.
“This guy not only looks like Neil Diamond, he’s tremendous,” Caruso said.
In addition to being a Neil Diamond tribute artist, Lorre had done jingles and voice-overs for the U.S. Army, Ford, Gillette, Sea World, Home Depot, Cadillac, Sears, Toyota and others. He’s performed his Variety of Legends tribute show throughout the United States, Nova Scotia, Ontario and the Bahamas.
Lynn Patmalnee, marketing manager for UCPAC, said, “We’re always pleased to support the veterans anyway we can. Community is so important and being able to access one another is important. Having a space (for the veterans) to come together and share experience is invaluable. It’s not an experience everyone has. It’s honorable and challenging.”
Patmalnee said she loved a member of her family who was in Vietnam and added, “I think it’s so important to have a space where they could come together and talk. Whether they talk about difficult things or the weather, it’s still the idea that there’s an understanding.”
Tying in with the fundraiser, UCPAC will also have a drive for vets. For more details, follow UCPAC on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/UCPAC/.
To purchase tickets to the fundraiser, visit: https://ucpac.org/events/.
Photo by Joe Ungaro