Groups tied to Allied Veterans of the World must preserve, recreate image

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This is only the beginning of what will be a long road ahead for Allied Veterans of the World and those connected to it.

Organizations tied to the group are trying to figure out how to keep operating and raising money, even though they've broken no laws.

It's all about preserving and, in some cases, recreating their image.

Other groups that support veterans, like American Legion, are just reminding people of their support for veterans through the years. Those that have closer ties to Allied Veterans of the World are taking more extreme measures.

Even though the Allied Veterans Center is totally separate from Allied Veterans of the World, the centers director says people still get the two confused.

"We had a couple of very unpleasant comments made on our web page from people who were totally misinformed as to what we were doing and who we are," said Col. Len Loving, of the center. "And of course they were tying us to the Allied Veterans of the World."

That's why in addition to having new leadership, the group could soon have a new name.

"I don't think we could continue to attract due to the name Allied Veterans. No, I don't," Loving said. "I think it'd be best if we go through a name change."

While that may be the best step for the Allied Veterans Center, Maria Coppola, of Coppola Public Relations, says not everyone connected to the organization needs to take such extreme measures to maintain their credibility and reputation.

For any organization connected to Allied Veterans of the World, directly or indirectly, she says the first step is truth and transparency. And for organizations where key members had close ties or were even arrested, it's about letting the public know there's a fresh start.

"One of the things that you can do is talk about the new leadership, talk about the transition team, talk about the commitment to the community, talk about your commitment to fixing whatever it was that caused this problem," Coppola said.

In Jacksonville, veterans group American Legion put out a statement reminding people of its longstanding history of legitimate fundraising for veterans. And it believes that's enough.

"No, I don't think we're going to have to go any further," said Emory Austin, of Lakeshore American Legion Post. "We need to leave it alone. The majority of people know we are not associated with that."

A pamphlet for the Allied Veterans Center has pictures of two of the people arrested in this investigation. The center will have to replace all that material, get new business cards and get a new board of directors. It plans to start that process early next week.

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