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Showing support for East Meadow's American Legion

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Dan Carbonare and Bill McCrindle, of East Meadow’s American Legion Post 1082, gave the Herald a tour of the building, on Bellmore Road, in August 2018. At the time, it had not seen many updates since the post acquired it in 1935.

Lights flickered, paint had peeled off the walls, rooms were filled with clutter covered in dust and, after a storm, the building often flooded because of damage to the roof and back door.

On Nov. 13, two days after Veterans Day, the interior was unrecognizable. A crew of PSEG Long Island employees were painting walls, cleaning rooms, replacing carpeting and installing interior and exterior energy-efficient LED lighting. “The goal is to give them immediate assistance, and also help them save money and conserve energy,” Ray Homburger, PSEG Long Island’s manager of customer quality assurance, said of the post.

The company designated the building as one of the beneficiaries of its first “Veterans Week.” From Nov. 12 to 15, PSEG Long Island employees volunteered at the homes and facilities of seven veterans and veterans’ agencies.

PSEG Long Island’s John Keating contacted the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce for help finding veterans and veterans’ groups in need of assistance. He and the chamber’s board chairman, Frank Camarano, have worked with “smart growth” advocacy group Vision Long Island. When Camarano heard what the company was doing, he was quick to point it to Post 1082.

“He reached out to me because PSEG wanted to help the vets, and here we have our American Legion asking for help,” Camarano said. “It was a perfect fit.”

There are 106 life members of the post, most of whom are older than 70. According to the most recent census data, between 2013 and 2017 there were 1,642 veterans living in East Meadow. “We’re still working on getting more guys at our meetings, but now we’re able to rent the hall out more,” McCrindle said. He explained that interest had increased among groups that rent the hall from the American Legion, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2736, the Nassau County Police American Legion and local residents hosting a private party.

The building, the only remaining veterans hall in East Meadow, was built in 1891. Post members have been raising funds to renovate it since they set up a GoFundMe page in May 2018. For months the page stagnated at roughly $800 of its $35,000 goal, until that October, when Eileen Napolitano, 57, of East Meadow, hosted the first of two fundraisers for the American Legion at Public House 106, and collected more than $7,000.

“Eileen was the fuel that got things going,” McCrindle said. “She started holding fundraisers, and was always asking what more she could do to help us.”

The hall no longer uses the GoFundMe page, but has continued accepting donations through additional fundraisers, including another that Napolitano held over the summer, and volunteer efforts like that of PSEG Long Island. “Whenever we have a project that needs to be done,” McCrindle added, “we ask the Boy Scouts first, and they usually help us.”

Members of East Meadow Boy Scout Troop 362, where McCrindle is an assistant scoutmaster, have made the American Legion the focus of their Eagle Scout projects. McCrindle’s son Robert, 19, became an Eagle Scout in 2017. That May, he installed a new welcome sign at the hall and resurfaced its front deck. In August 2018, another aspiring Eagle, Jason Foerster, built a brick patio and installed benches around the post’s flagpole.

McCrindle, 59, the post’s treasurer, has been involved for four years. When he joined, he said, he found a community with his fellow veterans, and his wife, Adriana, eventually joined him.

McCrindle served on active duty between 1980 and 1984, and for 22 years after that was in the Navy Reserves. In 1994 he married Adriana Gonzalez, and the couple moved to East Meadow five years later. She completed four years of active duty in the Navy starting in 1993, the year she and Bill met while working on the crew of a cargo plane. Adriana still serves in the National Guard.

Many PSEG Long Island employees are veterans, and in their honor, the company dubbed its community service project “Vets Helping Vets.” The day before the volunteers came to East Meadow, they kicked off “Veterans Week” with two community service projects, breaking ground on a Habitat for Humanity house for a veteran in Bellport, and cleaning and painting the Vet Mart at Nassau University Medical Center, a food pantry for veterans run by the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency.

The day after their work in East Meadow, they undertook similar renovations at American Legion Post 175 in Syosset. Other projects last week included beautifying the Northport VA Medical Center, renovating John J. Lynch Veterans Place, in Yaphank, and cleaning the yard of a 98-year-old World War II veteran in Northport.

“Supporting our communities is a huge part of PSEG Long Island’s employee culture,” said the company’s president and chief operations officer, Daniel Eichhorn. “During this time of year, when the nation recognizes the sacrifice of the men and women who’ve served our country, we felt it was especially important to devote our community service to improving veterans’ lives.”

Veterans who live in East Meadow are welcome to join American Legion Post 1082, which holds meetings on the first Saturday of every month at 11 a.m.