PAWTUCKET – The meeting place for city veterans for more than 90 years, the Major Walter G. Gatchell VFW Post 306 on Fountain Street has been home to blood drives, spaghetti dinners, and hundreds of other community events over the years.
But the 100-year-old city-owned building is starting to show its age and is in desperate need of repair, especially the roof, which needs to be replaced.
“Lately, our roof has been leaking because the roof is covered with slate tiles and they are just falling off,” says Post Commander Maurice P. Trottier. “The nails are rotting and we’ve got water coming into the walls.”
In addition, the moldings surrounding the edge of the roof are missing, which allows small animals and birds to enter.
Back in May, the post home had two roofing contractors complete a roof-to-basement inspection of the building and provide cost estimates for a new roof which, at that time, ranged from $12,750 to $14,965.
So far, the VFW has been able to come up with $2,000 from a grant, but it is not nearly enough to complete the work so Post 306 is looking for the public’s help.
“We’ve had some fundraisers to help defray the costs, but we still have a long way to go and we need help,” said Trottier, 82, a Korean War veteran.
Trottier says the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission has agreed to send a representative to look at the building, and there might be an outside chance the organization could offer financial assistance toward the project.
In the meantime, the post home is preparing to hold additional fundraisers to help the cause.
“Any other help we can get from the community in terms of donations would be greatly appreciated,” he said.
According to Trottier, the post home is rich in history. The VFW Post and the Ladies Auxiliary have been using the facility for 93 years.
“The first veterans to use this post were the Spanish War veterans,” he said. “We also have a WWII uniform on display, and recently we found a Purple Heart Medal in the shed. When we researched it we found out that the soldier it was awarded to was killed in France, so we bought a display case and it is now displayed on the wall.”
More importantly, the post home is a central monthly meeting place for several veterans organizations, including the Major Walter G. Gatchell VFW Post 306 Ladies Auxiliary, Korean War Veterans, Pawtucket Veterans Council, Fleet Reserve Association and the Rhode Island Division of State Veterans Affairs.
The venue also hosts many community events and fundraisers to help local veterans.
“This is a historic building, and we want to make sure that we do something before it is beyond repair,” says Trottier.
Anyone who would like to help can contact the post home at (401) 722-7146 or Trottier at (401) 723-4365.