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Volunteers upgrade San Bruno’s American Legion building
June 07, 2013, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal Wes Cole takes advantage of the new wheelchair ramp at the American Legion Post 409 in San Bruno, which was recently built through the help of Rebuilding Together, Sears and local volunteers.

The smell of freshly cut wood welcomed visitors to the American Legion Post 409 in San Bruno Thursday, a remnant of the recently-finished work to spruce the place up.

Originally built in the 1890s, the American Legion bought the building in the 1930s. Today, it serves upwards of 200 veterans. Despite the increase in use for the facility, repairs up until now have been more like Band-Aids, said Post Commander Lonnie Sopko.

On Thursday, Sopko couldn’t stop smiling as he looked around the building that had a lighter interior and brand-new exterior. The building got a bit of a facelift in recent weeks as volunteers came together for the Man of Steel rebuilding event hosted by Sears as part of the sixth annual Heroes at Home renovation and fundraising campaign for Rebuilding Together — a nonprofit focused on providing critical repairs, accessibility modifications and energy efficient upgrades to low-income homes and community centers at no cost to the recipient. Work concluded on Thursday. Now, the American Legion also has a new wheelchair ramp at the front of the building, an updated kitchen and a patriotic paint job on the building’s exterior.

“People thought I was crazy when I thought of that,” Sopko said of the red, white and blue exterior paint.

Wes Cole, a member at the American Legion Post 409 for seven years, was such a skeptic. But it didn’t take Cole long to realize the muted colors with a nod to patriotism really looked good, he said Thursday while using the brand-new wheelchair ramp. Up until recently, the facility had no such ramp. Those, like Cole, who needed that kind of access would instead go to the back of the building.

Cole was impressed by how much work was completed and how quickly it was done. He wasn’t sure all the goals would be met.

One of the smaller changes that will happen at the American Legion as a result of the upgrades is the use of real dishes and silverware, said Sopko. For so long, the group has housed enough dishware for 30 to 40 people but without a dishwasher, couldn’t use it for events. Thanks to Sears, that’s changed. Sopko is looking forward to seeing the members’ reaction at next week’s monthly meeting. Also, he’s hoping the new look will encourage young veterans to join.

Seana O’Shaughnessy, executive director of Rebuilding Together, called the achievement amazing. Work actually began in April to set the groundwork for the final push on Thursday. Inside, pictures of the earlier conditions and previous work donned the walls of the American Legion.

Local elected officials were on hand during a lunchtime celebration Thursday to thank the volunteers who helped make it happen.

Vice Mayor Irene O’Connell said it highlighted the power of people coming together.

County Supervisor Dave Pine agreed, describing Rebuilding Together as the kind of organization that “rallies to the community to make a real, tangible difference.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105



Tags: legion, american, thursday, together, sopko, building,

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