At the corner of West Sixth Street and Eigleberry in downtown Gilroy, a venerable old but beloved building is in need of a makeover.
The Gilroy Veterans Memorial Hall, home of American Legion Post 217 and the John A. Berri Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6309, along with various other vets auxiliary groups, is in the midst of a capital improvement campaign to raise $250,000 to upgrade bathrooms, security and kitchens, among other projects.
The campaign kicked off in June and so far has raised $19,000. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6309 donated $10,000.
“The Vets Hall is a very special place in our community,” says Phil Garcia, president of the South Santa Clara Valley Memorial District, which owns and operates the building. “However, this building needs some major remodeling, so it can continue to be a valuable place for residents.”
The 6,350-square-foot Veterans Hall serves as an essential meeting place for veterans (the full-service bar is a favorite daily meetup place), but it’s also widely used for resource fairs for veterans and its available for rent for meetings, bingo, memorial services, parties, weddings and other events. The Veterans Hall also has a bar, kitchen and outdoor barbecue pit.
The Gilroy Veterans Memorial Hall is funded through the South Santa Clara Valley Memorial District, which provides $133,000 annually from property taxes; facility rental and dues add another $45,000 a year in operating funds. The Gilroy Veterans Memorial Hall only employs Executive Director Christine West part time, and also has two janitors on the payroll. It costs $200,000 to operate the building every year.
The bar at the Gilroy Memorial Veterans Hall is jointly operated by the VFW and the American Legion and is a tenant of the building. The district, therefore, has nothing to do with its operation aside from collecting rent.
The district estimates that the most expensive project, the kitchen remodel, should cost about $120,000; for bathrooms, $65,000; for doors and a front window replacement, $20,000; for security upgrades, $10,000; and $5,000 to replace the front porch.
Updating the kitchen would be a revenue-generating renovation, allowing the Gilroy Memorial Veterans Building rent out to commercial businesses.
The Santa Clara Valley Memorial District is one of 11 special districts in California specifically organized to serve veterans. In 1951, local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs bought land that formerly was used as a lot for a Studebaker dealership (the Gilroy Dispatch office was the showroom) and built the building that stands today. It has not changed much since then.
Gilroy City Councilmember Marie Blankley, Heinzen Manufacturing, James A. Ward Law Offices and Pinnacle Bank have each donated $500 to the fundraiser. Veteran Tom Yamano gave $1,000, and $3,698.14 was raised from the fall tri-tip sale.
On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the Gilroy Veterans Memorial Hall is hosting a veterans resource fair that will include medical professionals, counseling services and veterans benefit assistance. Veterans are advised to bring their DD214 form to the resource fair.
“Bringing the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) Mobile Medical Team and other vendors here helps local vets get the services they need,” said Garcia. “Going to Palo Alto or even San Jose can be a burden for those who need VA services the most.”
To donate to the project, mail a check to 74 West Sixth Street, Gilroy, or visit www.sscvmemorialdistrict.org/capital-improvement-campaign.