July 04, 2013GROSSE POINTE FARMS — A letter sent around the Grosse Pointes regarding the Grosse Pointe War Memorial has caused a stir.
In the form of a news release, H. John Bates said the Grosse Pointe War Memorial is losing its identity.
Bates, who is president of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Veterans Club, sent the release to other clubs, some residents and the media.
The letter addressed funding of the War Memorial, hinting it would have to regionalize to capture funding from Wayne County and its veterans fund.
The letter claimed the War Memorial is $20 million in debt and to "regionalize" it would mean Grosse Pointe, Harper Woods, Detroit's east side, Hamtramck and Highland Park.
"The name could be changed to Wayne County War Memorial or Wayne County Community
Center," Bates said in the release.
Not so said three officials from the War Memorial who were called out in the missive from Bates.
"We have to set the record straight," said William Jennings, a Grosse Pointe dentist and
chairman of the board of directors for the War Memorial. "We're not in debt. We're a nonprofit with an endowment. There have been many changes, but we are better off financially
than we were five years ago. We have a balanced budget and we've made great strides with some of the changes we've made."
Karen Murphy, vice president and director of development for the War Memorial, said there isn't a name change coming.
"We wouldn't jeopardize our agreement with the Alger family," she said.
"Why would we give up our identity? We absolutely wouldn't."
Murphy also addressed the outside funding information put out in Bates' release.
Any monies from a veterans fund at the county level would not come with strings attached, if they were even eligible for the money.
Murphy said there were conversations about the soldiers and sailors relief fund with County Commissioner Tim Killeen. Murphy said the county would administer the program directly and it would not be distributed by a grant process.
"And regional is how you interpret it," Murphy said. "Our first mission is to help Grosse Pointe veterans and then we help other veterans when we can. Our services, which have included care packages for troops, help other soldiers too. They're serving our country. We've always been willing to help where we can."
Ed Lazar, a Grosse Pointe insurance agent who serves on the board of directors for the War Memorial said many groups receive the treatment the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Veterans Club receive.
"We give them a place to meet for free and we help with some of the costs for different things."
While they use the name Grosse Pointe War Memorial, it's not an official committee.
"We are proud veterans identify with our good name," Lazar said. "We want to be partners."
In a memo dated June 17, Bates addressed all board members for the War Memorial.
"The Grosse Pointe War Memorial Veterans Club members are very strongly against any partnership or obtaining funs from Wayne County.
"The Grosse Pointe War Memorial has never obtained any funds from any governmental agency and we do not intend to start.
"Stop all activity now. It is up to the various clubs and residents of Grosse Pointe to decide."
Jennings said some changes have been met with resistance, but the information getting out isn't accurate."
We had changes that needed to be made and we made them," he said. "It's frustrating to have to spend time fighting this misinformation. Our missions and our goals haven't changed. We aren't in debt. This community has been wonderful supporting the Grosse Pointe War Memorial and we are making it stronger."
Lazar said the leadership is taking it in the direction it needs to go.
"We aren't going to give this away," he said. "The Grosse Pointe War Memorial is one of the greatest things about our community. It has terrific leadership and we're building a stronger foundation."
Jennings and Murphy have sent a letter to supporters of the War Memorial answering the allegations of the release by Bates.
"There has been materials distributed throughout our community that are libelous and totally inaccurate regarding our Grosse Pointe War Memorial and we feel that the truth needs to be known and the lies exposed," the letter starts, before outlining and answering several points made by Bates.
"We just want both sides," Jennings said. We'll move forward in a positive way."
More information regarding the Grosse Pointe War Memorial will be in next week's Grosse Pointe News and at grossepointenews.com.