AVILLA — Accessibility for both veterans and the public is on the way toward improvement at America Legion Post 240 in Avilla, thanks to a $10,550 grant from Team Depot Foundation, affiliated with Home Depot.

Accessibility is a particular problem for the 1961 split-level building. The lower level has a ground-floor entrance but the upper level, one of the few banquet rental venues in Avilla, had only steps and a small landing inside to go up or down.

On Thursday, four volunteers from Home Depot in Auburn were on site, working with a crew from DDK Construction on an accessibility ramp and covered porch entrance to the post’s second-floor banquet room.

Matt Liggett, community captain of Home Depot in Auburn, said two of the four were first-time volunteers on a build. Construction began Nov. 2 and is expected to be finished this week, weather permitting.

Post commander Hobart Hinkson said the grant was the largest-ever for the Auburn store and one of three grants the store has given in 2019. The post and Home Depot worked together for 9 months on the grant application, he said.

Hinkson had high praise for post member Dave DeKoninck, owner of DDK Construction in Garrett, for his contributions to the grant project.

“He donated his time and his crew,” Hinkson said. “He donated the accessible restroom in the basement level. He helped with the application. He was on the team of five that did the application.”

DeKoninck also helped the post meet one requirement for the grant — he is a licensed contractor. Other criteria for the application included having a Home Deport crew involved, meet certain number thresholds for the number of people who will benefit, and meet levels of assistants.

“This helps the post but it also helps the town,” Hinkson said. “It’s the accessibility that people deserve.”

The post has 120 Legionnaires, but the total membership blooms to 300 or 400 with the addition of members of Sons of the American Legion and Women’s Auxiliary.

Hinkson said recent changes in membership rules could help the organization grow.

Congress makes the rules for Legion membership, and added service dates back to World War I to make more service men and women eligible for membership.

“I’ve tried to move the post into the 21st century,” Hinkson said. “People don’t join the legion now, especially younger people, but in the past people socialized at the posts.”

Posts are striving to be more family-friendly, too. Hinkson said the Avilla post is smoke-free and has added shuffleboard and other games to its activities. Friday night chicken and fish dinners are open to the public.

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