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Community rallies to help rebuild Glen Cove VFW after August fire

The James Erwin Donahue VFW Post 347 is

The James Erwin Donahue VFW Post 347 is seen in Glen Cove on Monday. Credit: Howard Simmons

The Thanksgiving spirit poured cash into a 5-gallon water jug this year to help Glen Cove’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post rebuild their fire-gutted building.

John Compitello, managing partner of Long Island Bagel Cafe in Glen Cove, said that after the Aug. 24 fire that severely damaged the building's interior, he set up a water jug at the counter for his customers to donate. The VFW reported Monday on its Facebook page that the jug contained $444.

"These men and women fought for us," Compitello said. "Whatever was asked, they did it."

Compitello, who personally donated another $500 to the rebuilding effort, said the VFW Post helps veterans and the Glen Cove community.

"You have to give back," he said.

Henryk Nowicki, commander of the James Erwin Donahue VFW Post 347 in Glen Cove, said donations since the fire so far total around $23,000.

"People were very generous," Nowicki said. The veterans group has surpassed its initial goal of raising $20,000.

But Nowicki said the fundraising may not be enough.

"We have insurance but we don’t know what we’re going to get from it and I have no idea what it’s going to cost [to rebuild]," Nowicki said. "I think we’re going to need a heck of a lot more."

County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said, "The community has really stepped up" to raise funds to rebuild it.

Veterans of World War I laid the bricks on the Hill Street building on weekends, finishing it in 1920, Nowicki said. The fire destroyed the interior of the second floor which had been rented to a soup kitchen that handed out food or delivered it. The ground floor suffered water and smoke damage. The brick exterior of the building remains solid but the interior had to be demolished, he said.

"We’re still basically in the demolition stage," he said. An architect is scheduled to come Tuesday to begin assessing what reconstruction will entail, he said. A report on the fire’s cause hasn’t been released to the VFW yet but he said that it was suspected to have been electrical.

The VFW has temporarily been using an American Legion building in Glen Head to do its work. The VFW helps veterans navigate bureaucracies to get benefits and health care, sponsors local soccer and softball teams, and lets organizations use its space free of charge, he said.

"The VFW was built by members 102 years ago and it served the community and veterans all that time," said veteran and former city councilman Tony Jimenez. "It was put out of action by that fire and they just want to rebuild and continue the work they’re doing."

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