After being closed for nearly 10 months in the wake of Hurricane Irma, American Legion Post 135 reopened on July 4.
Post members rode on a float in the Fourth of July Parade in their community of Naples, Fla., before returning to celebrate at their renovated home.
“It was pretty hot but it was nice to be out there,” said Post 135 Adjutant Michael “Mickey” Schuh. “Afterward, we went back to the post and did some fundraising for our programs. About 300 to 400 people came in and visited throughout the day. They were pretty happy. They couldn’t wait to get back into the post.”
About 8 inches of water flooded the building last September. The flooding was severe because the road that sits outside the post is elevated, which created a flow of water directly feeding into the building.
Schuh led the renovation project.
“I had my doubts sometimes early on (that the building would reopen),” he admitted. “But in the past couple of months, I figured that we were going to do it. We determined that we were going to re-open on the Fourth of July, no matter what. It all worked out.”
In February, the bare-bones building still showed signs of damage. There was no carpeting, drywall or ceiling tiles. A fleet of storage pods lined the parking lot.
The total damage costs was around $400,000. Insurance costs didn’t cover the full amount, so the post secured other funding such as grants from the National Emergency Fund (NEF). In February, Department Commander Steve Shuga surprised the post with a $25,000 grant from the department NEF fund.
“That was a big shot in the arm, it got us feeling a lot better,” Schuh said at the time.
Schuh and other post members targeted a summer opening. “I’m an old Marine,” he said in February. “You can’t give up your post.”
Post 135 is back in business, but its Legion Family members know some work remains.
"We got a little ways to go," John Madsen, a Sons of The American Legion member and the post’s kitchen and bar manager, told the Naples Daily News. "But it's good to see the old customers coming back, seeing the smile on their face."