Public House 106 in East Meadow bustled with noise and activity last Friday night as dozens of guests gathered to show their support for East Meadow American Legion Post 1082.
“We’re doing great so far — look at how many people showed up,” said the fundraiser’s organizer, Eileen Napolitano, gesturing to the crowded bar.
Five months ago, the post began raising funds for long-needed repairs to its building on Bellmore Road. When Napolitano, an East Meadow resident and a niece of two Vietnam veterans, heard about the effort, she said, she wanted to lend a hand. “When she wants to get something done, she does it,” said Napolitano’s friend Ross Schiller, of East Meadow. “And she really put her heart and soul into this.”
“We’re getting a lot of help now,” said Daniel Carbonare, the post’s first vice commissioner. “The ball started rolling, and we’re getting that building fixed.”
Two months ago, Carbonare gave the Herald a tour of the American Legion hall, which was built in 1891. Logs serve as support beams in its basement, holding up a rustic wooden ceiling. A door that leads to the backyard no longer closes all the way, and the basement often floods when it rains. A leaky roof causes additional damage during severe storms.
“It’s always going be an old building,” Carbonare said, “but we’re trying to get the plumbing, electricity and roofing in good shape — in that order.”
Napolitano recently reached out to Connelly & Sons Plumbing in East Meadow, which agreed to donate its services to fix the post’s plumbing issues, and Ace Hardware in Hicksville, which donated the necessary supplies.
“The community and the businesses have really stepped up,” she said. “Something that I learned along the way about these veterans was that they had to use whatever funds they had. I don’t want them to be in a situation where they’re struggling for money to pay for oil this winter.”
The building has been the post’s headquarters since 1935, and later shared it with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2736 and the Nassau County Police American Legion. Despite its condition, the building is the only remaining veterans hall in East Meadow.
Carbonare and Bill McCrindle, the post’s treasurer, set up a GoFundMe page in May that, as of Tuesday, had raised $2,190 of its goal of $35,000. Napolitano’s event raised an additional $5,047, and she said, she planned on continuing to help the post reach its goal.
It has also received help from East Meadow Boy Scout Troop 362. McCrindle is an assistant scoutmaster, and his son Robert, 18, became an Eagle Scout last year. In May 2017, Robert installed a new welcome sign for the hall and resurfaced its front deck. Jason Foerster, another Eagle Scout, followed suit in August by building a brick patio and installing benches around the post’s flagpole. “They’ve really helped us out,” Carbonare said.
McCrindle, 59, who was on active duty in the Navy in 1984, has been involved in the legion for three years. “In a residential area, which is kind of an odd place for it to be, it doesn’t get a lot of traffic,” he said of the post. “You blink and go right by it.”
But, he said, when he joined, he found a community, and was eventually joined by his wife, Adriana, who also served in the Navy, completing four years of active duty in 1997.
“We like to be able to work with the community and give back something,” McCrindle said, “just by having the hall there and being able to rent it out to people who need it.”
When Hurricane Sandy slammed into the South Shore six years ago, the post became a warming center for community members who were without heat or electricity. Residents have also rented the building for christenings, charity events and other special occasions.
“I feel local veterans are not cared for in the manner that they should be,” Napolitano said, adding that she read about the post’s struggles in an article in the Aug. 2-8 issue of the Herald titled “Preserving a home for vets in East Meadow.” She immediately wanted to help, she said, using her experience in social media advocacy and fundraising. “I didn’t think that it would become this big for me,” she added, “but it has, and I will always be there for them.”