AL post gets a makeover

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Earlier this month, the only American Legion Post in Valencia County got a makeover. While it’s not immediately obvious by looking at the exterior, the Secundino Baldonado American Legion, Post 81, received new paint, light fixtures, cabinets and shade structure over an existing patio.

The Home Depot Foundation sent more than 60 volunteers from stores around the state to the post to get an early-morning start on work that will make the post a functional, comfortable and safe place for veterans and their families.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Working hard on his day off, The Home Depot associate Deurell Bussell nails down plywood on the roof of a shade cover at the Secundino Baldonado American Legion, Post 81, in Belen. The post received about $10,000 in materials and supplies, as well as hundreds of free man hours from The Home Depot Foundation. The foundation assists veterans, their families and organizations in need with repairs and renovations.

Los Lunas store manager Vanessa Muñoz said the foundation contributed about $10,000 in materials and furnishings for the project.

“All the manpower is done by volunteers, by our associates,” Muñoz said. “As a surprise, we were able to include four patio sets for the patio.”

Muñoz said the associates donating their time truly embodied the foundation’s official slogan of “Doing more for our veterans.”

Associate Cory Latham, who was hard at work painting part of a wall a gray-blue, said he had done about 20 work days like this one for veterans.

“I do these two or three times a year,” Latham said. “I love to help and give back to our veterans.”

As an army of orange-shirted The Home Depot associates painted, drilled, hammered and laid flooring, Post 81 members Dave Pledger and Jack Williams looked on in appreciation.

“This is great; they’re going all out,” said Pledger, a three-year member of the post.

“It looks good. Now there’s less work for me to do,” Williams said chuckling.

Williams, a two-year member of the post, is the facility manager.

Post Commander Barbara Bowman said she wanted to thank both the foundation and Muñoz for their support of the post.

“I love it,” Bowman said. “This is going to be our home.”

And to make it a little more special, the post honored member John Zollan, the man who built the patio in the first place.

Zollan turned 85 on Aug. 9, and to celebrate his birthday and thank him for the work at the post, Bowman said they were dedicating the patio to him. It is now officially known as “John’s Outpost,” Bowman said.

While there are many veterans organizations in the county, American Legion Post 81 is the only one open seven days a week, Bowman said.

“We are very proud to be able to do that,” she said.

And if anyone ever has a hankering for pancakes, they can stop in for Sunday breakfast, a regular event at the post. If there’s a fifth Sunday in a month, Bowman said area first responders eat for free.

The Home Depot, in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, focuses its philanthropic efforts on improving the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families and aiding communities affected by natural disasters.

Through The Home Depot, the company’s associate-led volunteer force, thousands of associates dedicate their time and talents to these efforts in the communities where they live and work.

Since 2011, The Home Depot Foundation has invested more than $70 million to provide safe housing for veterans, and along with the help of Team Depot volunteers, has transformed more than 12,000 homes for veterans.

To learn more about the foundation, visit www.homedepotfoundation.org, and for inquiries about donations from The Home Depot Foundation, email hd_foundation@homedepot.org.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.