Southold American Legion needs help funding fixup

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | One of many torn-up areas of the parking lot at the Southold VFW.

It’s a well-used community center that sits on the bend in the road in Southold, just a short distance west of Town Hall. The main part of the Griswold-Terry-Glover American Legion Post 803 building is 160 years old and it has seen better days, according to new Cmdr. Earl Brock.

The building has undergone two expansions and those newer parts of the building are in generally good shape, he said. He estimates it would cost at least $150,000 to restore the original building back to its former beauty and that’s more money than post members, many of whom are retirees, can raise themselves, Mr. Brock said.

He’s reaching out to the wider community for help.

“The building does play an important part in the community,” Mr. Brock said. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts hold meetings there. There are bingo programs and the hall is rented out for various functions. Most who use it are asked for donations only to defray the costs of heating and electricity, Mr. Brock said.

Veterans sometimes ask to use it for wakes, retirement parties and anniversary celebrations when houses will be too small to accommodate crowds. Occasionally, it’s rented out for weddings, he said, but there’s less call for that because young people tend to prefer venues like local vineyards and catering halls, he said.

He expects post membership to be about 285 when the current membership drive ends in January. Members pay $40 in annual dues, but most of that goes to the legion’s district, county, state and national organizations, Mr. Brock said. What’s left in the local till just about pays to distribute a post newsletter, he said.

The aging building isn’t the only problem. The parking lot is “starting to be a safety issue,” Mr. Glover said about potholes in the blacktop. The lot was used not only by people attending community events in the hall, but as a stop for the Sunrise Bus Company, he said. That part of the Sunrise business is now owned by Hampton Jitney, which declined to contribute to a repaving, Mr. Brock said. Accordingly, post members no longer allow the Jitney to use the lot, he said. He estimated that paving alone will cost between $8,000 and $12,000.

Then there’s the roof over the main building. It’s past its life expectancy and needs to be reshingled, Mr. Brock said. There are large areas of wood shingles on the original building that are 60 to 80 years old and they need to be replaced, he said.

Paint on the outside of the building is peeling and an air conditioning unit “has finally gone to rest,” Mr. Brock said. It will cost $7,000 to $9,000 to replace. There’s a full commercial kitchen that needs to be updated, the post commander said. And rugs in the hall are 15 to 20 years old and, with heavy use, they need to be replaced, he said.

In years past, politicians have promised funds to help refurbish the hall. But in tight economic times, grants have dried up and now the politicians don’t even return calls to say they’re sorry that the money isn’t there, Mr. Brock said.

When he returned from his service in Washington, D.C., during the Vietnam War era, Mr. Brock wanted nothing to do with the American Legion post, he remembered. It was a different day and returning troops were often received with a less-than-glowing welcome home in their local communities, he said.

But as he aged, he found he had more time for community activities, he said. He thinks of the post today less as a military organization than a community center, he said.

He’s hoping people in Southold Town see it that way, too, and will help to support a renovation.

Checks should be made payable to the American Legion Post 803 and mailed to P.O. Box 591, Southold, NY 11971.

[email protected]

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