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Boy Scout supports disabled veterans at Malverne American Legion through project

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The basement of American Legion Post 44 in Malverne needed renovations — and since many veterans groups hold meetings there, Boy Scout Tracy Colena said he was compelled to refurbish it as his Eagle Scout project.

“My father is a member of the post,” said Colena, a Life Scout with Boy Scout Troop 20 in Hewlett. “I wanted to support him and his fellow veterans. I knew that it would mean a lot to them, so that’s really what inspired me.”

Colena, along with his fellow Boy Scouts, painted the basement, and raised more than $2,000 to install new lighting and a stair lift. Colena, who worked closely with past commander Tony Marino, started working on the project last month and completed it last week.

“We were able to raise a lot of money in a short amount of time,” Colena, 18, said. Any remaining funds will go to Post 44 as a donation.

Tracy’s father, Roger, has been a member of Malverne’s post for roughly 12 years. A Vietnam veteran, he served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1995. “I like the idea that he did something for the post,” Roger said. “The fact that he devoted time to do his Eagle Scout project for the post is great.”

Colena said that he also chose to do his Eagle Scout project for the post because members funded his trip to American Legion Boys State, a weeklong program held at SUNY Morrisville last year. While there, the students learned about government, with participants receiving instruction about the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training also covered the structure of city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities included legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses and recreational programs.

“It’s absolutely amazing to think that a young man looked at this building and said that this is what he was willing to do to help the veterans,” Ladies Auxiliary President Dr. Carol Hassett said. “He was very willing to do whatever is necessary to make it all come together.”

Hassett said that when former Post 44 member NYPD Det. Steven McDonald — who was wheelchair bound — attended meetings, those gatherings had to be moved to the first floor. “This is something that we had thought about back then, but nobody had the ability to work on that project,” Hassett said. “It’s really nice that it’s coming from the Boy Scouts because it shows that the young people truly understand the importance of what all of these people have done in the past.”

Tracy’s Scoutmaster Eugene Corless, who helped to collect donations, said the touching letters he received about the project moved him. “Those personal, but brief sentiments really give you a sense of the impact of what a good Eagle Scout project is all about,” Corless said. "I’m very happy that he chose to do this project. He’s just got a natural kindness to him, and I just feel like the project was the perfect expression of who he is as a scout.”

Now a freshman at Stony Brook University, Colena said that once he officially becomes an Eagle Scout in the coming months, he plans to become an assistant scoutmaster. “I want to help by giving back to that troop because they helped me put this project together,” he said. “They really helped to put this all in motion.”