The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 10, 2012

Sprucing up: Home Depot supplies grant, manpower to refurbish VFW

Kathy Mellott

PATTON — Over the past half-century, the interior of the John White Post 779 VFW has seen a lot of Christmas parties, bingo and wedding receptions. But Monday and today, it is seeing volunteers give it a new look.

With a $10,000 grant from Home Depot Foundation and upwards of three dozen Home Depot volunteers, the inside of the VFW, located in the 400 block of Magee Avenue, will look like a new place come Wednesday morning.

“It’s floor to ceiling. Lights, everything. It’s fantastic,” said Jeff Nagle, a retired Air Force veteran, longtime member of the VFW and now an employee at the Johnstown Home Depot.

The work at the Patton post is made possible through a grant program of the home improvement store giant providing $30 million to improve things for U.S. veterans.

Some of the money during the three-year span of the grant program is going to improving the private homes of veterans, while some is going to projects like the Patton post.

Work has already been completed through Home Depot at veterans hospitals in the Pittsburgh area and the Van Zandt Medical Center in Altoona, said Johnstown Home Depot manager Clint Dalton.

“The (Patton) VFW gave us this wish list and I have guys at the store with 30 years of background in flooring,” Dalton said.

On Monday, Home Depot had about a dozen of its workers from the Johnstown store along with Neal Waldron, manager of the Altoona store, at the VFW doing what they termed tear down and painting the walls.

Today, 30 skilled craftsmen from across western Pennsylvania will be at the post putting it all back together.

By 3 p.m., Dalton said, the goal is to have a dropped ceiling in the main part of the building in place, all new energy efficient lighting fixtures and the walls painted. The stage area also is being rehabilitated.

Meanwhile, plans are in the works to have the top quality solid wood floors refinished at a later date.

“They bring in all kinds of expertise and it’s sort of like cooking five pots on a four-burner stove,” Nagle said.

The original part of the two-story brick building was constructed in 1901 as offices for a coal company, said Nagle’s father, Chuck Nagle.

In 1934, it was purchased by the nonprofit and opened as the VFW.

A second floor of the building was used for years as a dance hall and was so large two bands could perform at the same time,  Jeff Nagle said.

In 1946-47, a rear addition was built to the post.

The younger Nagle said he first heard about the Home Depot Foundation when he went to work in Johnstown. He was out of the military after spending tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I was floored at what they do and I told (store officials) that our VFW needs a little tender loving care,” he said. “We submitted an application to headquarters and it got funded.”

Post officials are especially pleased with the work being done to lower the 10-foot-tall ceilings to 8 feet, a move that will help considerably in reducing heating costs.

With his father involved in the VFW most of his life, and his mother a member of the auxiliary, Jeff Nagle said work to improve the building is a labor of love.

“I love the building, I love what it stands for, and I love that the company I work for sees its value,” he said.