JERSEY SHORE-An important source of community pride will receive a major upgrade for the new year.
Jersey Shore's Veterans of Foreign Wars, Billy O. Brandt Post 5859 on Saturday celebrated the groundbreaking for a 2,400-square-foot addition and remodeling of the post.
"This has been almost two years to the day in the making," said Richard Swank Sr., quartermaster VFW Post 5859. "What we really wanted to do is to make the post more accessible to our members with disabilities."
PAUL GARRETT/THE EXPRESS
On hand for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Jersey Shore Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5859 building project on Saturday were, from left, Robert Secrest, commander; Tammy Gunsallus of Jersey Shore State Bank; Charlie Hall from state Rep. Garth Everett’s office; Don Breon II of Jersey Shore State Bank; Fred Machmer of Tiadaghton Contractors; George Dingler, VFW board president; David Daneker of Tiadaghton Contractors; Mark Drier, attorney; Robert Truby, Post chaplain; Jersey Shore Mayor Dennis Buttorff; Richard Swank Sr., quartermaster, and Wayne Peer, past post commander.
As currently constructed, the meeting space is in the basement of the building, making it difficult for disabled and senior members to participate. The post bought a neighboring property in the spring of 2009 to plan for this year's expansion.
The new addition is part of a $500,000 investment that will allow for a large, spacious meeting room beyond the north wall of the building, a full kitchen, handicap bathroom and honor wall, as explained by David Daneker, owner of Tiadaghton Contractors, South Williamsport.
"The honor wall will be a brick wall where members and family can purchase bricks with a loved one's name for commemoration," said Swank.
And that's just part one of the plan.
Part two will consist of remodeling the current building to bring it up to speed with the new addition to the post, named in honor of Billy O. Brandt, at 201 N. Lincoln Ave. The U.S. Department of the Interior lists U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Billy O. Brandt as a casualty at Hickam Field in Hawaii during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
"It has been wonderful to work with the VFW throughout the whole process, designing and approval," said Daneker. "We are really excited to start building."
Jersey Shore State Bank was grateful for the opportunity to secure the financing for an organization they believe is a very good cause and good asset to the community.
"We are excited as a community bank to be involved. In these times, it's great for troops, especially those on active duty, to have a place to come home to where they can share what they have experienced with others who know what it's like to serve. They can get support from those who have been through it, too," said Don Breon II, a business development officer with the bank, and Tammy Gunsallus, branch manager of the bank's local office.
"It's something no one else could relate to unless they were there," said Swank. "Our motto is, 'Honoring the dead by serving the living' for that reason."
"It's important for young vets to feel like they have a place there with us," said George Dingler, president of the board at VFW Post 5859. "While they are serving active duty, we pay their dues for them. We also donate to and assist the Red Cross, Little League, town meetings and others."
After brief words of encouragement and congratulations from Swank; Breon; Robert Secrest, commander VFW Post 5859; Charley Hall, aide to state Rep. Garth Everett; Daneker; Marc Drier, Post 5859 attorney; and Barb Schmouder, of the VFW Women's Auxiliary, the company of members and family toasted in celebration of the future.
"During this process, I've had the opportunity to learn a lot about the history of the post and its a good history with a lot of memories. We are looking forward to a good future, too," said Drier.
Building material is due to arrive early this week and construction is likely to start soon after.