Major makeover for Lockport VFW
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com September 17, 2013 5:48PM
This is a "before" picture of the wall at the side entrance to Lockport VFW Post 5788. | Supplied photo
Updated: October 19, 2013 7:17PM
The banquet hall at Lockport VFW Post 5788, deemed by even the post commander as a “last choice” for those seeking a spacious party room to rent, now may be at the top of the list for some area residents.
Officials on Tuesday morning cut the ribbon after a complete renovation of the facility, made possible thanks to a $16,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation, which spurred a volunteer effort for what otherwise would have been an estimated $200,000 makeover at the post, 1026 E. Ninth St.
Post Cmdr. Jack Picciolo said he was “overwhelmed” by the transformation.
“It’s a totally different building. The banquet room is great. This face-lift will put us back in the banquet business,” he said.
The veterans post depended on rentals of its 6,000-square-foot banquet hall to bring in revenue, but Picciolo said with leaking roofs, broken faucets, clogged drains and overflowing toilets, the outdated facility could not attract a decent rent.
“We were the last choice for most people,” he said.
That’s about to change, thanks to a week of intense 12- to 16-hour days by volunteers from the Homer Glen Home Depot and the Will and Grundy Counties Building Trades Council.
The spacious banquet hall has an all-new bar, bathrooms, walls, floors, lighting, plumbing, fresh flowers out front and a patriotic mural at the side entrance. The bar area and even Picciolo’s office were renovated.
“This is an extreme makeover. You wouldn’t recognize it,” Picciolo said. “We could not have done it without the union workers. Those guys really came through. It was all one big team effort.”
The team was led by The Home Depot, which has pledged to contribute $80 million to help veterans over a five-year period. The Lockport VFW renovation was one of the largest projects The Home Depot has done in Illinois, according to Beth Armour, manager of the Homer Glen store.
The post bought the former roller rink in 1962 but was not able to update it.
“This is the best of what America is. We all come together and do a project as one,” Lockport Mayor Steve Streit said.
“This facility was deplorable,” ladies auxiliary president Karen Szynkowski said. “It was years of not having enough money to fix things. And the worse it got, the harder it was to rent.”
She met Armour at a chamber expo and the ball got rolling.
“Karen told me they had water damage, but the need was much bigger than that,” Armour said. “There were so many issues, but so many people stepped up.”
Crest Hill Ald. Candi Thuringer got the building trades involved, and The Home Depot was able to expand the scope of the project.
“This is a big transformation. I hope it helps them survive,” building trades council president John Scheidt said. “If not for them, we would not have the freedom to do what we do. It was an honor to work with them and Home Depot.”
Many tradesmen came to the post in the evening after working a full day, he said.
“It’s awesome. It’s 110 percent better than what it was,” Post Senior Vice Cmdr. E.J. Errico said. “Every single volunteer here is a hero. Hopefully we can bring in more money so we put back more money into the community. This is what built America. We have to keep it going.”
State Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) called the ribbon-cutting ceremony a “celebration of unselfishness,” citing the generosity of the tradesmen and Home Depot.
“And who benefits from all this unselfishness? The most unselfish people we know — our veterans,” he said.