Fundraiser in honor of Costello supports Legion

03/30/2013 2:00 PM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | The late George Costello Sr. with fellow American Legion member Craig Richter outside the hall they worked to restore.

The restoration of the rundown Greenport American Legion Hall and its vintage roller rink suffered a major setback in December when George Costello Sr., one of the project’s leaders, died unexpectedly at age 63. But the work will continue with help from the Greenport Rotary Club.

In support of Mr. Costello’s vision of rebuilding the legion hall, the Rotary Club is dedicating the proceeds from this year’s Locals for Locals fundraiser to the project in his name.

“He was the driving force,” said Craig Richter, Burton Potter Post commander and a fellow rink project volunteer. “It was his dream to see the Legion Hall not just open, but to see it being enjoyed by the community.”

The revival of the ailing structure began two years ago. For their efforts, Mr. Costello, a Vietnam War veteran, and fellow volunteers were named The Suffolk Times’ “Civic People of the Year” for 2011.

Following Mr. Costello’s death, Mr. Richter took the reins. He believes a there’s a sense of urgency to completing the construction in Mr. Costello’s memory. “There is a lot of work,” he said. “We are doing this 100 percent.”

On Saturday mornings a group of volunteers gathers to work on the building. In upcoming weeks the north-facing exterior wall will be painted white to match the front. The floors, which were heavily damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy, are being ripped up.

Before it can open to public, the building will need new composite flooring, heating and air conditioning systems and a remodeled kitchen and bathrooms. Additionally, a structurally unsound wall on the south side must be replaced.

“We need money,” Mr. Richter said matter-of-factly. He estimates the final cost will be upwards of $600,000. As for the construction time frame, Mr. Richter said, “It could be done in six months if someone wrote us a check for $400,000. It depends on when we can raise the money. I hope it’s a year, not five or six years.”

Attempts to secure grant money to repair the 60-year-old building have fallen short. “It is a tough economic time,” Richter said.

Thus far, nearly $160,000 has been invested, which went toward a new roof, windows and exterior paint.

Mr. Richter says weddings, reunions, conventions and concerts are the type of events he’d welcome at the hall. Once complete, the building will house its iconic roller-skating rink, as well as a possible indoor hockey and basketball courts.

The Rotary fundraiser takes place on Tuesday, April 16, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hellenic Snack Bar & Restaurant in Greenport.

The prix fixe menu includes a cash bar, chicken Santorini over orzo with salad and dessert. The food can be wrapped to go.

The Rotary will absorb the overhead costs, allowing 100 percent of tickets sales to go directly to the restoration.

Tickets are $18 per person for adults and $12 for seniors and children under 12. They’re available at Bridgehampton National Bank in Cutchogue, McMann Price Insurance Agency and Hampton Jitney in Greenport and through Rotary Club members.

“I think there’s going to be a really great turnout,” said Rotarian Robin Walden. “George was a great guy. I think doing this fundraising for the legion will help the entire community — and that’s what George wanted.”

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