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DAV raising money to construct garage for transport vans


MASSENA - Members of the local Disabled American Veterans organization in Massena want to provide shelter for two vans that transport area veterans to the VA Medical Center in Syracuse, and they’re looking for financial support from other veteran’s groups and community members.

“We’re wanting other veteran’s organizations and anybody who wants to donate to help us out a little bit,” DAV Chapter 171 Commander Edward Gebeault said.

He said they hope to build a garage on land owned by VFW Post 1143 on West Hatfield Street. A storage building that currently sits near a portion of the parking lot would be removed and replaced by the garage, which would hold the DAV’s two transport vans as well as equipment that’s currently in the storage building.

“We’re building it and donating it to the VFW since it’s on their property,” Mr. Gebeault said.

Mr. Gebeault said the vans were once parked in the parking lot in front of the Massena Fire Station. Now, they sit in the municipal parking lot across the street, near the police station, where the keys are available to drivers 24 hours a day.

“They’ve been backed into twice,” said John Alexander, DAV’s driver coordinator.

The new garage will be a help for drivers who have to leave at 4:30 a.m. to pick up veterans heading to Syracuse in time for an 8 a.m. appointment - especially in the winter when there’s more than just driving involved.

“They leave at 4:30. A lot of times they’re out there chipping the ice off,” Mr. Gebeault said.

“There’s the exposure in both the winter and summer. They need to be inside and enclosed year-round,” said James H. Baker, the DAV’s patient coordinator.

The new garage would be 28 feet wide by 25 feet deep with two 9-foot by 10-foot doors.

“The VFW can share it with us and put their lawn tractors inside,” Mr. Gebeault said.

They’re waiting for four bids on the project, he said, and are hoping it can come in under $30,000.

“With some donations we’ll be able to swing it,” he said. “We’re hoping once we get the bids in (in August) that it will be approved by the planning board. Then we’ll be good to go.”

Donations can be made out to the DAV, attention: Treasurer Robert Brothers and can be dropped off at the VFW.

“We’re definitely looking for any kind of donation,” Mr. Baker said.

The vans typically transport veterans to Syracuse on Tuesday and Thursday, but Mr. Baker said arrangements can also be made for appointments on other days. They pick up not only in Massena, but also surrounding communities including Potsdam, Norwood, Norfolk, Dekalb and Gouverneur.

In addition to raising money for the new garage, Mr. Gebeault said they’ll also be holding their annual Forget Me Knot fundraiser from Aug. 8-10. They plan to have them for sale at several locations, including Walmart, Stewarts on North Main Street and at the Route 56 and 37 intersection, the IGA in Waddington, Smith’s True Value Hardware, the U.S. Post Office and Key Bank.

“It’s just a matter of getting enough volunteers,” he said.

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