Legion family beautifies youth community center

Nearly 50 American Legion family members attending national convention in Charlotte, N.C., got their hands dirty Friday morning in effort to improve the interior and exterior of a local community center that benefits underprivileged youth.

The American Legion teamed up with Rebuilding Together to spruce up the Pine Valley Community Center, which serves as a safe haven for up to 60 youth in the neighborhood by providing tutoring and lunches during the summer and after school.

“When I got the call that they were going to do this, I couldn’t believe it,” said Marshalle Peay, president of the Pine Valley Community board. “I didn’t think that we had such great people to do this for us. I’m just grateful. Everything looks so beautiful; the Legion and Rebuilding Together have made an impact on this community.”

Rebuilding Together staff and members of the Legion family, including leading candidate for American Legion national commander Mike Helm from Nebraska, hauled mulch in wheel barrels to disperse by trees and the new flower beds, painted the inside of the center, cleaned the kitchen and grouted the bathrooms.

“It’s a lot of fun to come together with everyone and do what we’re doing for the youth of this community,” Helm said.

Tina Washington, an Auxiliary member from the Department of Delaware, agreed with Helm. “This is a really good project, and I can already see that what we’ve done today is going to make a big difference. I think it’s wonderful that we have so many volunteers from the Legion and Auxiliary helping and serving the community.”

This is the second time the Legion and Rebuilding Together have teamed up to conduct a service project during national convention. Last year in Houston, they revitalized a 100-year-old homeless veterans facility.

“The Legion partnership has been a great one for us,” said Matt de Ferranti, Rebuilding Together’s senior director of government relations. “It’s been so powerful to get to work with Legionnaires and women from the Auxiliary; it’s gratifying and there’s such a spirit of service. This is living out the mission of the Legion as far as serving youth and also living out our mission of rebuilding communities in need.”

About 18 volunteers assisted with landscaping because “the perception to the public is if it’s beautiful on the outside than it’s beautiful on the inside,” said Legionnaire Paul Norton from the Department of Indiana. “Being a Legionnaire, this is who we are, and it’s what we do. We like to make an impact on a community wherever we are.”

At the conclusion of the community service project, a new flag pole was constructed and American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger and Auxiliary President Nancy Brown-Park raised the U.S. flag while the volunteers cheered and sang “God Bless America.”

“This is a prime example of how the Legion family gives back to America and rebuilds our communities,” Dellinger said.

Thanks to the many volunteers, the Pine Valley Community Center now has new landscaping, fresh paint, and is clean and safe for the children it serves.

“Programs that this community center serves are critical to help low-income homeowners who are working multiple jobs, and it gives their children a safe place to play so they can keep and own their part of the American dream,” de Ferranti said.