Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars East Setauket Post 3054 are beginning to see the results of working together with the community and elected officials.
A year after post members began fundraising to help renovate their headquarters, which is at least 90 years old, they have been able to check a few items off their to-do list. Post Commander Jay Veronko credits not only the post’s fundraisers at Country Corner, Madiran and Prohibition Kitchen, but also contributions from community groups and the help of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).
“We got some money rolling in now, and we’re putting that money back into the building,” Veronko said.
With funds raised, the post members have been able to replace the hood over the range in the kitchen and make the women’s bathroom an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restroom. They also installed a new fire system.
The post commander said several donations gave the post a head start, including $15,000 from Facebook group Three Village Dads raised at their August golf outing, a $30,000 grant from the Rommel Wilson Memorial Fund and a $10,000 state grant with the help of Englebright. Local businesses also donated supplies.
David Tracy, of Three Village Dads, said the partnership with the post began when the members wanted to raise money for a good cause. He said a few members now belong to the post. Members of the Facebook group, which recently became a nonprofit, assisted in the demolition and renovation, while 3VD members Mike Kinney did the plumbing, Chris and John Prussen of South Setauket-based JP Electric worked on the electricity and Tommy Raftery, along with his crew from Stony Brook-based Elite Home Improvement Services, undertook the majority of the rebuild.
Before the bathroom renovation, the space had two stalls and a different layout which made it hard to maneuver a wheelchair. It now has been made roomier and has a grab bar by the toilet, a wider door and an ADA-compliant sink. Veronko said Old Country Ceramic Tile in Port Jefferson Station donated all the tiles.
Hahn said it’s important to have an ADA-compliant bathroom as veterans age so they can still visit the post.
“That’s an important step that they took to make it accessible,” she said.
Hahn coordinated a visit with local trade union representatives to the post more than a year ago. She said many local skilled laborers want to volunteer and use their skills to help veterans, which helps defray costs. The tour led the Sheet Metal Workers International Local 28 to build a custom range hood in the kitchen.
In the future, Veronko said, the post members hope to renovate the windows, floors and bar.
Englebright said the renovations to the building are important, and he was glad to help with the state grant as the members are generous with their time. He said the post is fundamental to the community, especially when it comes to continuing the tradition of the Memorial Day parade in East Setauket.
“One of the great events is the Memorial Day parade and at the end of each parade many of the marchers work their way back to this site,” he said. “It is a celebration of the day that takes place there with many of our veterans hosting anyone in the community who may want to have a hot dog and a soda.”
Veronko said the hope is that one day the post, which in addition to the Memorial Day parade hosts the Veterans Day memorial service and the fall chicken barbecue fundraiser, will be able to organize more community events like farmers markets. He added the 3VD hold their monthly meetings at the post, and the building is available for community and other veterans groups to meet.
Veronko said the renovations are needed for more than updating a historic structure.
“The building needed updating absolutely, but we’re doing it for the next generation because we’re going to have a lot of Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans at some point,” he said. “I think there’s probably more of them than Vietnam vets that are eligible for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
The post will be holding another fundraiser March 14 at Country Corner in East Setauket from 4 to 8 p.m. For more information visit www.post3054.com.
Donations can also be sent to 8 Jones Street, Setauket, NY 11733.