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Renovations to the Coon Valley American Legion Hall have been ongoing for several years thanks to the generosity of Post members, area residents, businesses and organizations.

Two large donations to the organization late last year by Robert Kerska ($13,000) and Organic Valley ($12,000) resulted in interior upgrades and ongoing exterior upgrades were jumpstarted a couple years back by a large donation by Elnor Haugen ($15,000) toward the building’s roof replacement. The generosity of many others has also assisted with updates to the aging building and the costs associated with hosting Legion Post fundraising events.

Last summer members of Post 116 decided it was time to replace the 1964 walk-in cooler at the Coon Valley Legion Hall, which was inefficient by today’s standards. To jumpstart the project, the organization took out a $15,000 loan and ordered a new cooler.

Once the cooler arrived the first task at hand involved installation of the new unit, which was to be installed with volunteer labor of its members. However, as every homeowner knows, when tackling a remodeling project the unknown costs associated with unexpected problems lends itself to a greater investment before most remodeling projects are completed.

The original $15,000 cooler replacement project quickly more than doubled in cost and left the organization short on funds. Once the old cooler was removed and before the new system could be installed Post 116 was forced to replace sewer lines the width of the building, replace aging water lines, rewire the buildings outdated electrical system, and replace the flooring.

At the same time the “Honey Do” project list was growing as more and more areas of concern were uncovered. The handicap accessible entrance to the hall was damaged last year by excess rain/flooding and the overhang and concrete pad will need to be repaired as soon as the weather allows. The building’s siding needs to be replaced, along with other plumbing and electrical issues that were not yet addressed. Post 116 also recognized that the building’s HVAC units are 25 years old and also need to be upgraded.

When Coon Valley resident Robert Kerska, an avid supporter of multiple service organizations in the village, learned about the planned upgrades he stepped up and donated the funds needed to cover the cost of the cooler, $13,000, in memory of his parents, Edward and Anna Kerska.

Edward Kerska was a charter member of the Coon Valley American Legion Post and Anna Kerska was a charter member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit. Both were active supporters of the American Legion their entire lives and Robert Kerska is a member of the Coon Valley Sons of The American Legion.

Then last December, Post 116 member Ron Hoff applied for a grant through Organic Valley Cooperative to help cover some of the costs for building renovations.

The Coon Valley American Legion and Organic Valley have an ongoing working relationship. For several years, the Wayne Peters family donated the eggs from Organic Valley for the Post’s pancake breakfasts. Years later those donations were taken on by the Berg families of rural Coon Valley. The donations list has grown to include eggs, milk, and butter from Organic Valley which the Legion uses for its pancake breakfasts and charcoal chicken dinners.

When Hoff applied for the grant, he was unaware of Kerska’s planned donation for the cooler, so when Hoff received notification that Organic Valley had awarded the Coon Valley American Legion Post a $12,000 renovation grant it was like icing on the cake for the organization who were not prepared financially to tackle the growing list of upgrades needed to the building.

In December, Kerska presented his check for the entire cost of the cooler $13,000, provided it was dedicated in the memory of his parents. One week later, Legion members were presented a check from Organic Valley for $12,000 toward the rest of the renovation project.

The Coon Valley American Post also recognized Elnor Haugen for a $15,000 donation he made toward an overall $40,000 roof replacement project. Haugen is an active member of the Coon Valley American Legion Post 116 where he is a 44 year member. He also donated a riding lawn mower to the organization for maintaining the club grounds.

Coon Valley American Legion Post 116 members sent out a heartfelt note of appreciation to Haugen, Kerska, Organic Valley Cooperative, and the entire area for multiple donations made in the past by members and the community which have allowed Post 116 to continue to whittle away at its renovations to the hall, without taking on additional debt, while maintaining the building properly and ensuring it continues to be a safe and viable asset to the community.


Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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