American Legion Post 288 is celebrating 90 years as a charter, about 80 of those years at 4011 La Crescenta Ave.
By Isiah REYES
On April 9, 1924, Verdugo Hills Post 288 of the American Legion was chartered by the national headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. The American Legion movement was barely four years old and growing by leaps and bounds across the country. The La Crescenta local Post was originally located on the corner of Rosemont and Fairway until the “Great Flood” on New Year’s Day 1934 knocked the hall off its foundation. The building was relocated that same year to its present site on the corner of La Crescenta and Manhattan avenues.
Over the years, the Post has been an important part of the Crescenta Valley community, with many civic meetings and dances being held in Memorial Hall. The Post experienced a surge in membership following WWII and currently has about 140 members, according to Lynn McGinnis, commander of American Legion Post 288.
“The benefits of being a member of the Legion is first and foremost the camaraderie of being with a bunch of other guys who all served together in the service,” McGinnis said. He added that being a member is also inexpensive.
McGinnis said the American Legion has changed over the years since it first began in 1919. The Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. He suggested that veterans returning home from the war should get involved with a veterans organization because they have programs that can help pay for college tuition. They can also connect veterans to a hospital if they were wounded on a mission.
Over the years, American Legions throughout the country have had waves of membership highs and lows and Post 288 is now different. The trend seems to be that, as men and women leave the service, they do not
join the American Legion right away but instead wait until a little later in life.
“I was like that,” said Mike Baldwin, adjutant of Post 288.
Baldwin served in Vietnam. When he came home, his priorities were starting a career and raising a family.
“I was busy raising two boys, going to school and getting a career,” he said. “I didn’t think a lot about the American Legion or the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars).”
But what he found later was how important these two veterans organizations are to veterans, those who have been home for a while and those who have recently returned.
The American Legion is a watchdog for veterans’ issues on both federal and state levels.
“[We] just want to make certain we don’t forget our veterans when they come home,” Baldwin added.
In that spirit, American Legion Post 288 and VFW Post 1614, which now shares the Post 288 building, worked for years to create a veterans’ memorial wall at Two Strike Park. They have also been very active with outreach to the community. Several references can be found of the local Post and the La Crescenta Woman’s Club helping those in need after the Great Flood.
With a motto of “Still Serving,” the American Legion’s mission is two-fold: veterans and youth. On the veterans front, Verdugo Hills Post 288 supports any veteran, whether a member or not, who has a question or claim with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The Post supports a wide variety of youth programs in the valley, including Cub Scout Pack 360, Boy Scout Troop 288, Venture Crew 288, CVHS JROTC, Prom Plus, the CJSF at Rosemont and Boy’s State. The Post recently held a very successful St. Patrick’s Day dinner fundraiser and distributed $1,400 to the seven youth groups, McGinnis said.
The Post now turns its attention to a major remodeling project this summer, McGinnis added.
The Home Depot Foundation announced a $20,000 grant and construction overhaul for the American Legion Verdugo Hills Post 288 in La Crescenta.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto assisted in helping the organization secure the grant.
Baldwin said Home Depot helps all sorts of organizations across California, including Habitat for Humanity and other organizations that help people in need.
“I’m glad that Home Depot does recognize the veterans’ organization for what we do,” Baldwin said. “It’s their way of showing appreciation for those men and women who have served in the service.”
On May 1 to May 3, The Home Depot’s associate-led volunteer force Team Depot will visit Post 288 to remodel two bathrooms, repaint the interior of the building, replace ceiling tiles, and remove and replace kitchen counters and cabinets, among other improvements.
This remodel comes just in time for the Legion’s 90th anniversary.
“Any U.S. military veteran is invited to stop by the Post on the first Monday of the month, at 19:30 hours and check us out. We would love to introduce ourselves and our community activities to you,” McGinnis said.