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DAV raising money to construct garage for transport vans

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MASSENA — Members of the local Disabled American Veterans organization want to provide shelter for two vans that transport area veterans to the Veterans Affairs 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 T. Gebeault said.

He said the DAV hopes to build a garage on land owned by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1143 on West Hatfield Street. A storage building that sits near the parking lot would be removed and replaced by the garage, which would hold the DAV’s two transport vans as well as equipment that’s now in the storage building.

“We’re building it and donating it to the VFW since it’s on their property,” Mr. Gebeault said.

He said the vans once were parked in the parking lot in front of the Massena Fire Station. 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 be a help for 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 feet wide by 25 feet deep with two 9-by-10-foot doors.

“The VFW can share it with us and put their lawn tractors inside,” Mr. Gebeault said.

The DAV is waiting for four bids on the project, he said, and is hoping it can come in at less than $30,000.

“With some donations we’ll be able to swing it,” he said.

Donations can be made out to the DAV, attention: Treasurer Robert Brothers, and can be dropped off at the VFW.

“We’re definitely looking for any kind of donation,” Mr. Baker said.

The vans typically transport veterans to Syracuse on Tuesday and Thursday, but Mr. Baker said arrangements also can be made for appointments on other days. They pick up not only in Massena, but in surrounding communities including Potsdam, Norwood, Norfolk, DeKalb and Gouverneur.

In addition to raising money for the new garage, Mr. Gebeault said, the DAV will be holding its annual Forget-Me-Not fundraiser Aug. 8 to 10.

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