It’s a small building, VFW Post 3473. Set back from the road down a narrow, gravel driveway made more from use of heavy tires than with intention, it’s easy to mistake the large wooden doors set against the sharp blue exterior as the entrance. But those that know, bypass the walkway, the ramp and the wooden doors and round to the back of the building where hospitality waits.
“This particular building has been here since 1976,” said Dennis Twite. He’s been a member of the post for six years and currently serves as its commander. Every Friday the post puts on a dinner. It offers rides to doctor appointments for no cost and tries to lend a helping hand to the community of Cottage Grove. But after seeing members struggle with a simple task inside its own four walls, VFW Post 3473 could use a hand itself.
“It was a member’s wife who comes here a lot and she pointed it out to us how difficult it was to get a wheelchair through the doorway and then to the stall,” said Ken Hunt, junior vice commander for the post. The door is just off the kitchen which leads to a twisting hallway. The stall is designated for handicapped visitors and sits in the women’s bathroom at the end of that twisting hallway. To access it, a female guest must contend with an over-sized water heater that stands opposite the stall door and serves as the final obstacle in a sort of comedy of errors surrounding the normally mundane task of using the restroom.
“It just makes it really hard to use the restroom and it’s not ADA compliant,” Twite said of the current situation.
The post and its auxiliary have applied for grants to fix both the men and women’s facilities and bringing them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The two grants would total $2,000.
“It’s probably not enough to get the project done but it’s enough to get us started,” Hunt said.
Except the auxiliary has already heard back and the news wasn’t good: they had been denied the $1,000 grant request. That leaves the post’s request of $1,000 if it’s awarded.
“If we run into plumbing, than $2,000 is going to be light and since the auxiliary heard back, $1,000 won’t be enough. It will get us started,” Twite said.
The post raises money throughout the year through a variety of activities including a spot at the local rest stop, selling coffee. However, not everything the post has in its coffers is up for grabs. “Our biggest fund is the relief fund and that’s used to help veterans,” Hunt said. “We can’t use that for anything else. If the money is designated for something, we have to use it for that. We can’t use it for anything else.”
For now, the group is holding its breath waiting to see if the approval comes through and Twite says the post is open to help from the community.
“If there are people that want to donate then we are open to that,” he said.