Membership has nearly doubled over the last decade at American Legion Post 60 in the high-country timber town of Cascade, Idaho, population 939, where critical thinking, strategic planning and a renewed commitment to community has local Legionnaires excited about their second century. Heading into the 100th anniversary of The American Legion – likewise of Post 60, chartered in October 1919 and named for Valley County’s first World War I KIA, Frank E. Spickelmire – membership has climbed from 96 in 2006 to more than 160 today, making it the largest post in Idaho’s 9th District. “It’s all about getting new folks in … and refreshing ideas,” says Post 60 centennial committee chairman and U.S. Navy retiree Jack Knoblock Jr. “We figured out what was needed, and we did it. It snowballed.” In 1992, the post dedicated a new home along Highway 55 on the south side of town. It was the right size, sparklingly new, highly visible, next to a playground, with plenty of parking. Fourteen years later, however, with membership in decline, it became clear to the Legionnaires and Auxiliary members that they needed to do something more, and different. They began, essentially, a self-made revitalization effort centered on community outreach. “We decided we needed a plan,” Knoblock says. The interior of the post home, although relatively new, was “battleship gray,” he explained. “This building was tired. People talked about doing this and doing that, but nothing happened. Every time I went to a meeting, it was the same story. I told my wife I need to either get out of this or find a way to change it.” The members agreed. Change had to happen, and soon it did. They realized that among the membership and community, there was a small army of skilled craftspeople, cooks, servers, bookkeepers and volunteers. “You find someone, you see a spark in them, and you get them involved,” says member and Valley County Veterans Service Officer Mike Keithly, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. The energy was contagious. Membership grew as visible activity did. The refurbished post home became more of a community center than a watering hole. “People don’t want to join an old man’s drinking club,” Post 60 Commander Tom Bacon said. “We are not that way.” The growing membership went to work remodeling and repainting the interior and exterior of the post home and putting in new hardwood floors. They added to their walls of honor the engraved names of county veterans from more recent U.S. military conflicts than World War I and World War II, along with a display of photos dedicated to locals who have served since Desert Storm. On one wall, a signed certificate of appreciation from Operation New Dawn HQ, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Garrison Command, thanks the post for a care package it sent to Iraq in 2011. “The best thing we have going for us is this facility and our generous donors,” Keithly says. As it grew and evolved, Post 60 was proclaimed a Valley County War Memorial, a designation proudly displayed under The American Legion emblem on its highway-side sign and electronic reader board. Critical to the post’s revival was a commitment to engage with local businesses, civic groups, the school and social services that provide help for families in need. Knoblock says members set out to identify specific needs in the community and fill them. A pie raffle at the post, for instance, raises funds to purchase coats, hats and boots for needy children in the community, known for its long, cold, snowy winters. Post members work with teachers, some of whom are American Legion Family members, to discreetly deliver winter wear to children who need it most. The holidays are big at Post 60. A free-of-charge Thanksgiving Day dinner is served up for anyone in the community. “The place gets packed,” Bacon says. “I think we served 280 last year. A lot of potatoes to peel. Everyone chips in. It’s a great time.” Tip-jar donations usually cover the cost of up to 14 turkeys and 10 hams each year for the dinner. All the leftovers are then delivered to local first responders, the senior center and the Women, Infants and Children Assistance Program in town. The post also splits the cost of stringing holiday lights in Cascade with the Chamber of Commerce, and the week before Christmas the Legionnaires throw a big party for children at the post, including free pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, where donated wrapped gifts sorted by age are presented – an activity reminiscent of the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. The post has a Friday night social every week that “ties the whole community together,” Knoblock says. Eighty to 100 attend, even some who operate bars and restaurants in town, seeing Post 60 as a collaborator in the community, not a competitor. “They all stand beside us.” All net proceeds from the Friday socials are plowed back into post community services and programs, and the post does not have dining or drinking any other day of the week, other than special events. Revenue also comes from renting out the banquet hall and kitchen, which comes free of charge for any local veteran’s funeral service and dinner. Another major fundraiser is the post’s annual Cinco de Mayo dinner and auction in May. Strong relations with the school have been essential, Keithly says. Post 60 and its American Legion Auxiliary unit sponsor Boys State and Girls State participants and a Boy Scouts unit. And each year, on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Legionnaires honor first responders at a Patriots Day event for schoolchildren “to teach the kids what really happened that day,” Keithly says. Post members like World War II Navy veteran Joel Starr, who spoke to students last Veterans Day about his experience in the Pacific Theater, make themselves available to share with young people their military experiences; during a summer “Every Hero has a Story” reading program at the local library in 2015, two combat-veteran post members described for children their wartime experiences and displayed memorabilia, while dressed in their flight suits. The post’s color guard leads an annual 4th of July parade that attracts more than 7,000 visitors each year, who stand four deep along the main street through town. Among the parade’s features two years ago was a “saluting Marine,” modeled after Marine Corps veteran Tim Chambers, who stands and salutes in dress blues each year as motorcycles pass during Rolling Thunder in Washington, D.C. The post also passes out small American flags to those lining up for the parade. Post 60 is also home to three annual Red Cross blood drives, provides a venue for candidate forums during election season and serves as a polling place on voting day. The Legionnaires credit their Auxiliary unit of about 60 members – which puts the Legion Family force in Cascade at about 220 overall – for tireless volunteer help and involvement in all activities. “We have an Auxiliary that is phenomenal,” Knoblock says. “They are our strong right arm,” Keithly agrees. Under the direction of John Ernsburger, the post developed its own website at and also has a Facebook profile and is now fulfilling a 100th anniversary post profile at As Knoblock sifts through the centennial history of Post 60, trying to recover long-lost documents and memories to share about the post’s legacy online and in a quarterly newsletter, he is equally dedicated to a renewed vision for the future, especially given all that has happened there over the last decade, thanks to a willingness to make changes both inside and outside the post home. “The most important thing,” he says, “is to be engaged in the community.”