11/13/11 12:14pm
11/13/2011 12:14 PM

Local residents munched on freshly harvested Peconic Bay scallops at Hanffs Boat Yard in Greenport Saturday not only because they love to eat scallops, but because they would like to see the Greenport American Legion building thrive once again.

George Costello, who is leading the restoration effort, said this was the fourth benefit held since he visited the building last November and saw how desperately the building needed renovations.

“It freaked me out,” Mr. Costello said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Since then, Mr. Costello and other members of the Burton Potter American Legion Post 185 created the Greenport American Legion Building Fund and have been holding membership drives, applying for grants and organizing benefits to raise funds to restore the building that has been closed for about five years.

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About $100,000 has been raised so far, he said, but over $30,000 was already used earlier this year for roof repair.  The Legion is hoping to secure a $400,000 state grant in order to complete the restoration effort.

“There’s a lot of competition for this grant and my gut feeling is we have a 70 percent chance of getting it,” Mr. Costello said. “If we have to raise it all, then we’ll do it.”

Mr. Costello said the community’s support is what keeps him focused. He has received dozens of letters from local residents, which mostly describe memories of the rolling skating rink, meeting their future spouse, taking their grandchildren skating or catching up with old friends at the building.

“Four generations have skated there,” he said. “Reading those letters, it just makes it that much more important to me.”

Al Vonhassel, a Greenport resident who has been catching scallops all his life, said he donated 75 pounds of scallops for the dinner to help out. Mr. Vonhassel said he harvested most of them on opening day last week in Indian Neck.

“I ran into George in the deli a couple of weeks ago and we came up with the idea of a scallop benefit dinner,” Mr. Vonhassel said. “The building is very important to all of us.”

A group of volunteers assembled a production line outside the boat yard to get the scallops cooked. Barbara Richter of Greenport took the raw scallops and dipped them into an egg batter. Then Jamie Cogan of Shelter Island floured the seafood so the bread crumbs would stick when Paul Dinizio of Greenport breaded them.

“I prefer to eat them raw,” said Ms. Richter as she cleaned her hands.

Ms. Richter’s husband, Craig, was in charge of frying the scallops.

“They smell terrific,” he said, dropping a batch of golden brown scallops into an aluminum tray. “Nothing beats scallops.”

Dinner included bake potatoes, cole slaw, brownies and a surprise musical performance by Babylon-based Saffron United Pipe Band.

Lifelong friends Anne Vixon and Betty Schloss said while they are big fans of scallops, they decided to attend the dinner because they believed it was for a good cause.

“We hope they do more of these dinners,” Ms. Schloss said. “It’s important to help out the Legion.”

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JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Craig Richter of Greenport cooks scallops Saturday night during the Peconic Bay Scallop Dinner at Hanffs Boat Yard in Greenport. Proceeds from the dinner will go toward restoring the Greenport American Legion Building.

06/20/11 3:06pm
06/20/2011 3:06 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | A fish fry in Greenport Sunday benefited the American Legion post restoration efforts.

When it comes to supporting the renovation of the American Legion Burton Potter Post 185 in Greenport, lots of people seem to find a reason to step up.

Some lend a hand because they’re veterans, while others come to support veterans in their family. But others come just because they remember the Post’s many community events from the past so fondly.

And for those reasons, many Greenport residents took time from their busy schedules Sunday for the Old Fashioned Fish Fry at Hanff’s Boatyard in Greenport, where organizers were ecstatic about the nearly $15,000 raised to help support the restoration effort.The Post, originally built in 1953, is in need of a new roof, flooring and other improvements


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From 1 to 7 p.m. there was a steady stream of people who were unanimous in pronouncing the event a success, and the food excellent.

“We’d still be there if we hadn’t run out of food,” said George Costello, who organized the event.

Thanks to fishermen like Ian Crowley and Sid Smith, there was plenty of fried fish with hush puppies, cole slaw, vegetables and dessert.

Caterer Daniel Mannix of Greenport supervised volunteers who prepared the food. Greenporter Paul Henry was hard at work slicing fresh tuna and making his own “special sauce” for sushumi.

For $20 ($10 for children), it was an afternoon to sit by the water on a barge or  inside Wooden Boat Works, where folks enjoyed the cordiality of a community event on Fathers Day. Music was provided by the Irish Setters and The Pipes & Drums of Saffron United , and the Greenport Village pirates even stopped by for a visit.

Local Girl Scouts helped serve the food and local artists contributed prints and paintings for sale. There was also a 50-50 raffle to bring more money to the coffers.

Multiple local businesses donated everything from fresh tuna and sushumi from Braun’s; cupcakes from Butta Cakes; brownies from Miche Bacher; soda from Burger Construction; beer from the Greenport Brewery and paper goods and condiments from Ted Laoudis of Mavila Foods and Skipper’s Restaurant. Others, including Whiskey Wind, Mullen Motors and Bridge Hunt of North Ferry, provided cash donations to sponsor the event.

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03/29/11 6:33am
03/29/2011 6:33 AM

The interior of the Burton Potter American Legion Post 185 in Greenport

The appeal for funds to renovate the American Legion post in Greenport has resonated with many, providing a good start on financial contributions, a resurgence in post membership and the offer of many volunteer hours from local tradesman.

The coffers now hold between $32,000 and $35,000 of the estimated $250,000 to $300,000 it will take to restore the Burton Potter American Legion Post 185 to its former glory, according to George Costello, who is leading the renovation effort. He said he’s pleased at the number of people who have stepped forward since the campaign was launched last fall.

A membership drive not only attracted some veterans who hadn’t been active in recent years, but included an outreach to the sons of veterans, Mr. Costello said. He was able to recruit about 15 vets in their 20s who are also tradesmen with expertise, talent and energy to lend to the project.

Until now, work inside the building has been limited to a basic cleanup and shoring up the walls, Mr. Costello said. In April, work will get under way on replacing the pitched roof and that’s expected to eat up most of what’s been raised so far. Two other roof sections are also beyond repair and Mr. Costello hopes money from direct donations and upcoming fundraisers will allow the Legion to complete all the roof work this spring.

It’s important to get the roof done to stop leaks that might otherwise threaten the integrity of the building, he said. Then work can begin on the floor and other interior renovations.

To help keep project money flowing, Marilyn Corwin has put together a variety show at 2 p.m. this Sunday. April 3, at the Greenport School auditorium.

Ms. Corwin was watching a recent TV program that featured old clips from “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which aired on CBS between 1948 and 1971, and thought that might just be the key to her program.

For those who remember it, Mr. Sullivan’s “really big show” offered everything from singers and comedians to jugglers and magic acts. And that’s just what you’ll find on Sunday, with performances from the East End Brass Band, gospel singers, bagpipers, an accordionist, banjo player Warren McKnight, guitarist and singer Ev Corwin, rap artist Mike Check and singer Erika Cabral. Ms. Corwin had a juggler slated for the program, but he slipped through her fingers when he got another Sunday booking he couldn’t pass up, she said.

Nonetheless, Ms. Corwin promises her own “really big show,” and said it’s a bargain at $10 for adults and $5 for children accompanied by an adult. Tickets are available at the door.

“I think it’s going to be a fun day,” she said.

While the show can’t net the thousands still needed for work on the building, which serves as much as a community center as it does a home for veterans, every dollar helps, Mr. Costello said.

Another fundraiser, an old-fashioned fish fry at Hanff’s Boat Yard on Sterling Street, is scheduled for June 19.

Those who have been working on the project are also planning something special for this year’s Greenport Maritime Festival in September, Mr. Costello said. Because the festival occurs in the same month as the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, he expects that legion organizers will memorialize that event in conjunction with their festival plans.
A drive to increase membership in the legion’s auxiliary will also get under way, Mr. Costello said.

He’s also looking for additional volunteers to get involved in the renovations.

“Anybody who can work with your hands, we’ve got a job for you,” Mr. Costello said.

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To benefit renovation of Burton Potter American Legion Post 185
Sunday, April 2, at 2 p.m.
Greenport School auditorium
Tickets at the door: $10 for adults, $5 for children accompanied by an adult