Cathay Post 384
CJ Reeves

Nestled in San Francisco’s Chinatown is an American Legion post with a unique distinction. Historic Cathay Post 384 is the city’s only post that owns the building it occupies. But its distinctions don’t stop there.
The building in the 1500 block of Powell Street belongs to the 89-year-old Cathay Post 384 and has housed it for over 70 years. In that time, it has become a bulwark of the community. The post rents out the first floor to an art gallery. The basement is leased to a club. Additional outreach to the community is done by renting the space out to a church on Sundays. Supporting the neighborhood is key, so the Boy Scouts use the meeting hall for free. Cathay Post also holds tai chi classes the mornings before the monthly meetings.
As a Chinatown icon, Cathay Post 384 is the face of the American Legion in San Francisco. When the Chinese Historical Society needs a veteran’s point of view, they look to Cathay Post for solutions. Both the Chinese American Citizens Alliance and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association value the integrity and mission of Cathay Post and regularly partner in community events and celebrations. The city calls on Cathay Post for many civic functions and parades. Cathay Post 384 has long been a staple in the Italian Heritage Parade, Memorial Day Parade and Veterans Day Parade. This kind of positive exposure is effective in drawing people to the post and thus may be considered a recruitment tool.
Having your own space automatically creates a homey and welcoming environment. This is a singular advantage to owning your building. It’s local, it’s historic, and therefore many people find this comforting. This atmosphere is another useful recruitment tool. People yearn for a sense of belonging. Cathay Post accomplishes this by having a lunch buffet at every meeting. Good food plus good conversation equals a comfortable and inviting setting. People feel safe and secure.
It is in this setting that people are open to joining the American Legion. This is nothing short of a winning combination, not a magical formula for recruiting. There is a strong sense of comradery, commitment and belonging as a result of simply blending great folks with good food in an attractive facility. As a result, people want to become a member of the post. This itself is a successful tool for recruiting. It is during these luncheons when relationships are forged. Guests are welcomed and invited to attend. Members who prepare the food are called support members, because the post has no auxiliary.
The members of Cathay Post 384 are ultimately what make the American Legion appealing. It is only on a personal level where a profound connection is made. This can only happen when there is mutual admiration and a high degree of respect.
After 88 years, the post elected the first female commander, Helen Wong. She has volunteered tirelessly for the interests of all veterans. She is actively involved with six veterans’ organizations. She ran the Veterans’ Success Center for more than a decade as a volunteer. She is only interested in helping veterans. This has earned her much respect as a model Legionnaire. She strives to get veterans involved by encouraging them. What’s important is that she leads by example. She constantly listens without judgment as they tell her their story.
Finally, the Cathay Post is comprised of many Legionnaires who are kind, caring and compassionate. It is this temperament, coupled with an inviting, iconic neighborhood home, which allows new members to feel welcomed and honored to participate. Other posts are encouraged to borrow these best practices of Cathay Post 384. It would go a long way to maintaining members and bolstering member rosters of all posts of the American Legion.