Legion, donors working to rehabilitate Post 160 in Effingham
EFFINGHAM, S.C. – The members of American Legion Post 160 in Effingham want to bring the post back from where it was almost nonexistent to where it can be a resource to help Pee Dee veterans.
Post members have several other wants, but restoring the post is the biggest of them. And they’re not alone.
McCall Farms and the Freedom Boulevard Lowe’s — among others — are on board with that mission as well.
McCall Farms has signed an agreement to rent the facility to use for hiring — giving the post a guaranteed income stream as it works to rehabilitate the building as part of the plan to restore the post.
It’s not the first time McCall Farms has helped out the post — it sits on land donated by the Swink family for use as an American Legion Post in 1950, as long as it continues as such.
“At 51 I’m the youngest member we’ve got. Our crowd is around 70-84,” said Michael Calcutt. He was on site Tuesday to oversee the building contractor who was working on the front of the building and the septic system contractor who was installing a new drain field in the back.
Inside, Calcutt said, two old bathrooms have been combined into one ADA-compliant bathroom, once the fixtures are installed. Out back what’s left of the old bathrooms is stacked in one of two barbeque pits that sit under a metal-roof shelter along with some ductwork and an old avocado-green gas stove.
Inside, the building has pine paneling, a banana-yellow kitchen, a few old gas heaters, bits of history and the odd mystery or two.
Calcutt is an Operation Desert Storm veteran who served with the 132nd Military Police Company, National Guard, out of Florence. He is not an officer with the post but said he likely got the job of dealing with the media and being on hand for the building work.
Calcutt said he decided to join the Legion because it piqued his interest and he felt a need to give back.
At a recent meeting the post was approached by a homeless veteran in need and the post was forced to refer him to Columbia.
“Personally, if a guy is out there in self-inflicted misery I’m not going to give him a handout. A lot of these guys with PTSD, they need help but they don’t necessarily know they need help,” Calcutt said. Those veterans, though, will reach out to another vet and that will open the door for assistance.
“We want to reach out to veterans and help,” Calcutt said, whether they are homeless or just need help with a utility bill or a trip to Columbia.
A lost history
As the Post works to clean up, and clean out, the building members keep finding pieces of history but lack the context to know the significance of it.
In an addition to the post, built for the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, a series of framed photos show women of a certain age with hair that speaks of an age gone by. But who they are and why they’re hanging there is a good question.
The post also has two charters. One from 1951 and another from 1982. Why two charters is another good question they’d like to have an answer for.
“Mr. Henry Swink looked at our old charter papers and said ‘I know every name on here,’” Calcutt said “He’s a veteran himself; both brothers are. You could tell he really has a heart for the American Legion.”
Then there is a bank account that may be out there.
“A fund set up through Post 160 for Ladies Auxiliary to pay for books for local ladies who want to go to nursing school,” Calcutt said. “That’s something we’re trying to rediscover.”
A plaque hangs on the wall in the building’s foyer. Metal tags on the plaque honor those who have donated $25,000 or more to the post building fund. It is full of family names, and a few companies, that remain plentiful in Effingham, Calcutt said.
An old upright piano sits up against the wall in the main hall, probably donated to the post.
The pine paneling throughout the building was donated by Ingram Lumber when the building was built. Some has termite damage but the majority remains as solid as the day it was installed.
Calcutt said the post would like to brighten up the building but wants to keep some of the paneling as a nod to the past.
In the attic are four chairs, not wicker but made out of a weave of sorts that was all the rage when the building was built. One of the contractors working on the building would like them.
Calcutt said one of the challenges the post is facing is finding out what some of the stuff in the building might, or might not, be worth.
“This is a long, long relationship and we are excited to be going into a new phase with them on this,” said Darryl Davids, vice president for human resources at McCall Farms.
“We have a long history of hiring veterans and an excellent track record with folks with previous military background coming in and doing an outstanding job,” Davids said. “Every opportunity we get to recruit veterans we try to take positive advantage of that.”
McCall Farms, which will be using the post as a hiring office Monday-Friday, said that will help cut down on traffic into the plant, across the street from the post.
“With our continued growth the location of the building is outstanding for us. It’s close but being across the street it helps us alleviate the traffic situation,” Davids said. The move should keep 200-400 cars a week for applicants off the plant site which sees about 1,000 vehicles access the property during the slow season. Many more during parts of the year with heightened vegetable deliveries.
“Already planning on the gravel. Doing painting now. Replacing rotted wood, having the painting done. Donating new flag poles that’ll be installed in a few weeks,” Davids said, listing some of the tasks either done or set to be done. “We’ll do some shrubbery around the front. They’ve invested in some flooring and making sure the rest rooms are ADA compliant. The partnership is very exciting for us.”
“It’s something we really wanted to do for those guys and I know they’re working on the place and get it together,” said Johnathan Carter, store manager for the Freedom Boulevard Lowe’s store.
Carter said the store had donated several items to the effort.
“We know how it is to support veterans and their needs in the community,” Carter said. “We’re going to support him as much as possible to help him out. We’re excited for him and what he’s doing.”
Davids said the goal is to have everything complete by April 1 when the hiring office will officially move in.