Upgrades Planned for Vet Hall

by Rick Lemyre (Brentwood Press)

It’s stood sentinel on the corner of First and Maple streets for 84 years, honoring veterans and providing a venue for countless community activities. And while the events are scheduled to continue unabated through the spring and summer, a major effort is getting underway to enable it to continue its mission far into the future.
Built in 1924 as a place for World War I veterans to gather, the building belongs to Contra Costa County, which leases it back to the veterans for $1 per year. There’s no money to maintain or improve it, however, so all upkeep and improvements have been accomplished through renting the building for community events, holding fundraisers, securing occasional grants from the City of Brentwood and the efforts of veterans and local service clubs. Over the years that has meant new air conditioners, kitchen equipment, flooring and paint, but a recently assembled group wants to make even more significant upgrades.
“As a memorial, we want it to reflect the importance of the veterans it was built for” and all those who have served since, said Don Hester of the Marine Corps League. The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars also use the building, and members of each are on the board of the new Veterans Memorial Building charity set up to care for the hall.
Planned improvements include a remodeled kitchen, ADA-compliant bathrooms, a new flagpole and a general sprucing up of the décor. Rough estimates put the costs at more than $200,000; precise numbers are currently being put together.
“It’s going to be some money,” said Legionnaire George Martinez, one of the building’s new trustees. “We don’t know how much yet, but we’re not letting any grass grow under our feet.”
In addition to an effort to attract more rent-producing events (starting at about $400, the rates are competitive with other local venues, the vets say) the group is planning a number of events of its own. The first is a Casino Night set for May 1, which will include Texas Hold’em, craps, roulette and blackjack. There will be door prizes, silent auctions and raffles, and food and drinks will be available. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door. Cocktail hour starts at 5:30 p.m. and games begin at 7.
Other events will follow, but throughout them all, the veterans who gather at the hall regularly say the goal is the same: Honor and serve the vets who meet there, while continuing to provide a place where Boy and Girl Scouts can meet for free, where the Women’s and Men’s clubs can get together, and where literally tons of fresh crab, spaghetti and tri-tip can be consumed to benefit the community.
“Like the veterans who meet here and who continue to serve their community, the building is the same way,” said Hester. “It will continue to serve the community. It just needs a little help.”
For tickets to Casino night or to arrange to rent the Hall, call 925-634-0736.
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