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With a donation from an Island Park Legion Post, an Amityville Post hopes for a rebirth

Charlie Martin Jr., commander of the Hunter Squires

Charlie Martin Jr., commander of the Hunter Squires Jackson American Legion Post 1218 in Amityville, stands by a damaged section of ceiling inside the post Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Babylon Town's inaugural Kayaking for a Cause race last weekend drew 55 racers and raised $15,000 for Amityville's Hunter Squires Jackson American Legion Post 1218.

The bulk of the money came in the form of a $10,000 check from members of Legion Post 1029 in Island Park. The members read a recent Newsday story about theft and superstorm Sandy damage at Hunter Squires Jackson that left its building unusable.

Island Park Commander Joseph Aniano said his fellow members hadn't wasted much time deliberating over the gift. "Every one of them, unanimously, on the spot: 'do it, do it, do it,' " he recalled.

The Island Park post has donated more than $500,000, mostly to veterans causes, since selling its building about five years ago, Aniano said. "We have to satisfy ourselves where it's going, and we want the biggest bang for the buck," he said.

Hunter Squires Jackson satisfied both requirements, he said. Its members are raising money to rebuild their post, which will cost close to $200,000. Plans include repairing a banquet hall and dance floor that once made it popular for weddings and parties.

"We know they can do it," Aniano said.

Hunter Squires Jackson Commander Charles Martin called the donations "mind-boggling" and said he would invite Island Park members to the building's opening.

Founded by three Amityville men -- Arthur Hunter, Arthur Squires and Frederick Jackson -- who served with the Army's 360th Regiment in World War I, Hunter Squires Jackson's early members were African-American and Native American veterans denied entry to other posts.

The post grew into a community institution, hosting NAACP meetings and funding extracurricular activities in Amityville schools. A ladies' auxiliary visited area hospitals and delivered turkeys to needy homes on Thanksgiving and Christmas; young people joined its sports teams and its Drum and Bugle Corps.

Babylon Town Deputy Supervisor Antonio Martinez said those activities were important for the Babylon Town community. The weekend race was the start of what he said could be a lengthy recovery process for the Amityville post. "It's not going to be one giant leap but a series of little steps," Martinez said.

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