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Vets groups to halt donations over smoking ban

CHESTER, W.Va. — On March 6, just two days after the Hancock County health board gave a second reading to its proposed smoking ban, John Ash, senior vice commander of Chester Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6450, wrote a letter to county commissioners expressing concern about the effect such a ban would have on local veterans’ organizations.

Two months later, those concerns are coming true.

Under the threat of a ban, Post 6450 is putting a temporary moratorium on all charitable donations until its financial picture becomes more clear. Other Hancock County veterans’ organizations, as well as Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, may follow suit, said Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, spokeswoman for, a coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals opposed to the smoking ban proposal.

“It’s very serious,” said David Ash, commander of the recently-renamed Bob Milby Post 6450.

Post officials in Chester, Newell and New Cumberland say a public smoking ban would so affect their revenues, primarily by driving out-of-state patrons away from their video lottery parlors, that charitable donations to schools, clubs, organizations, volunteer fire departments and law enforcement agencies would have to be severely cut back.

A letter from Post 6450 to organizations seeking funding states, in part, “We have received your request for a donation, and we have tabled it until we know the results of the smoking ban. If the no-smoking ban is approved, we will no longer be able to support the community as we have in the past. It will decrease our income drastically, and we must take care of veterans’ needs first. … If the no-smoking ban is not approved, we will then be able to entertain your request.”

The decision to table all requests for funding was made reluctantly – first by the Post 6450 house committee and then by the entire membership, David Ash said.

“We’re just planning ahead and waiting to see what happens,” he said. “(The ban) may hit us hard; then again, it may not hurt us at all. We just don’t know, so we’re going to step back and let the fog clear and then make a final decision.”

The action by Post 6450, and potentially other American Legion and VFW posts in Hancock County, could put in jeopardy hundreds of thousands of dollars given to organizations each year…

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