Memorial Day right around the corner makes it a great time of year to remember those who have served and protected Americans while serving in the armed forces. While we take this designated time to honor our veterans, they often face struggles that need attention daily. The American Legion Post 107 and its charitable arm, the Veterans Center of Hoboken, is committed to supporting veterans in our community with a few of the main issues they face—homelessness, transition to civilian life, mental health, financial growth, and employment opportunities. We met with John Carey, the Post Commander; Mark Villamar, the Finance Officer; and Joyce Flinn, a volunteer, to learn more about the Post’s initiatives and how the community can support local veterans. Read on to learn more about American Legion’s Veterans Center of Hoboken and find out how to help.
For the past 101 years, the American Legion Post 107 has called Hoboken home with the purpose of serving military veterans and their families. The American Legion in Hoboken is one of the oldest Posts in the state: it opened in 1920, just after Congress chartered the organization in 1919.
The city of Hoboken rose to fame among American soldiers when General John J. Pershing coined the promise of “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken” as a likely outcome for soldiers of World War I by Christmas 1917. During the final year of the war, over 1.5 million soldiers passed through the small city as a port of embarkation after serving overseas.
The Legion is a national veteran’s service organization and shares the same commitment to the organization’s mission as its over 13,000 peer sites worldwide. The mission focuses on a commitment to mentoring youth, helping to finance the higher education, physical health, and overall well-being of our nation’s heroes. The work done by this 501 c3 organization is only possible by its active members, volunteers, and the community.
Up until 2012, The Legion used a much smaller, one-story building. That building was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. After the storm, The Legion was given an opportunity by the city of Hoboken to expand its space with room to host events and create the most important part of the new space, 6 apartments to house homeless veterans.
Being able to house these veterans is a dream come true for John, Mark, and Joyce all of who have been active with the Legion and have seen the positive effects of having a safe place to live.
Even greater expansion for the Legion is on the horizon. Mark shared that his day job as a real estate developer has a current project that requires the addition of affordable housing in the community. The organization has worked with the city to permit room for 18 more apartment spaces to be included at the American Legion building which will bring the total to 24 veterans housed by the end of the development. Each apartment houses a single individual and comes fully furnished with furniture donated by the community.
During our visit, we chatted with a resident of this program who shared how his life has been saved under the care and attention of those at the Legion. This veteran served in the Navy and started his transition to civilian life at age 24. Once back from serving, his life took a few unplanned turns. He attributes his access to safe housing and overall quality of life to the support of The American Legion and volunteers like John, Mark, and Joyce who have dedicated their lives to building up the local veteran community. Others currently living in the facilities and those who will move in upon expansion have similar stories.
In addition to providing housing for veterans, the Legion will uphold its commitment to mental and physical health with the inclusion of a fitness center and meeting and entertaining spaces. The project will ultimately be a $4 million job. While about half of that number has already been contributed to the initiative, the finish line is still a ways off. The Legion is looking to the community for support.
How to Help
It is common to thank veterans for their service and we should show our gratitude for those who risked their lives for our freedom. However, in conversation with Joyce, she shares that by donating just $10, often the equivalent to 2 crafted lattes, the lives of veterans can be changed for the better.
Donations of any size are exactly what Post 107 is asking of the community. The space is available for the additional 18 residents, but the funds are still needed to make this a reality.
To learn more about the American Legion of Hoboken Post 107 and to make a gift for the betterment of this community, visit the site here. Today, the community can make the promise of making Hoboken a safe home for veterans, the greatest gift of all.