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DAV raising money to construct garage for transport vans

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

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

Mr. Gebeault said the group wants to build a garage on land owned by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1143 on West Hatfield Street. A storage building would be removed and replaced by the garage, which would hold the DAV’s two vans as well as equipment that’s 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 used to be parked in front of the Massena Fire Department. 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 help 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.

The new garage would be 28 by 25 feet. “The VFW can share it with us and put their lawn tractors inside,” Mr. Gebeault said.

Members are 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,” Mr. Gebeault said. “We’re hoping once we get the bids in, that it will be approved by the Planning Board. Then we’ll be good to go.”

Donations can be made out to the DAV and can be dropped off at the VFW.

The vans typically take veterans to Syracuse on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but arrangements can be made for appointments on other days. The vans pick up patients in Massena and surrounding communities, including Potsdam, Norwood, Norfolk, DeKalb Junction and Gouverneur.

In addition to raising money for the new garage, Mr. Gebeault said the organization will hold its annual Forget Me Knot fundraiser from Aug. 8 to 10. Members plan be at several locations, including Walmart, Stewart’s on North Main Street and at the Route 56 and 37 intersection, IGA in Waddington, Smith’s True Value Hardware, the U.S. post office and KeyBank.

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