Volunteers help spruce up American Legion Post

With the help of about 30 volunteers, American Legion Post 288's building in La Crescenta got a face-lift this past week.

Since the 1920s, the organization has been a local hub for veterans and community organizations.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and the Home Depot Foundation helped secure a grant for the repairs, which included new, eco-friendly bathroom amenities to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, new kitchen cabinets and a new wheelchair ramp.

"They have provided over $20,000 worth of material alone, plus all the expertise and personnel to help us do it, which is fantastic. We're absolutely ecstatic," said Mike Baldwin, an adjutant with the local American Legion post and a retired veteran who served in the Vietnam War.

Veterans meet at the building about once a month, and between gatherings the post hosts other activities such as martial-arts classes and Boy Scout meetings.

But the post wasn't always at 4011 La Crescenta Ave. It moved there in 1935 after a massive flood, Baldwin said. Other than that, not much has changed despite some wear and tear over the years.

"It still has all the original two-by-fours," Baldwin said.

The material is redwood, which is sturdy and not susceptible to water damage. That made the remodeling process a little easier, said Chuck Messig, a Home Depot district community captain and manager of the Covina store.

"The structure of this building is fantastic," he said.

Most of the volunteers were Home Depot employees, who have been focusing on veteran homes and facilities on behalf of the Home Depot Foundation since 2011.

One of them, Joe Simental, works as a specialty assistant manager at the West Covina location and also was a Marine who did tours of Iraq in 2004 and 2006.

He was working in one of the bathrooms last Friday and said he tries to take up the opportunity as much as possible to help out with projects involving veterans.

"It's a great honor to always assist in that way," Simental said. "I personally am not a member of (Veterans of Foreign Wars) or the American Legion, but I understand it's their livelihood. It's a good way for them to not only get involved with the community, but also to try to better themselves in whatever their situation might be."