Berkley American Legion needs $100,000 in 2 weeks to save building

The Berkley American Legion hall is in danger of closing after two people mismanaged its funds.

It has two weeks to come up with $100,000 or else lose the building.

"I thought everything was hunky dory," said Tom Bustance, the Post 374 commander. "I was on the board, we had a manager who said everything was hunky dory - and it wasn't."

It didn't take long for Bustance to learn that the Berkley post was nearly $200,000 in the hole.

The two people who had once been in charge of managing the post were actually running it into the ground, mismanaging and inappropriately using the funds.

John Gleason, a Vietnam veteran has been a member for 48 years.

"We always thought they were doing a wonderful job," Gleason said. "Well they were fleecing us out the back door. It's sad, they took advantage of us."

And now more than 1,000 members who have called this American Legion home and have served the needy and other veterans for the last 75 years, are on the brink of losing their building.

"I'd be devastated," said Obrad Zivojnovity, a Vietnam veteran. "Because of all the help for the veterans, that's all we do, is help veterans."

They don't want to lose this place," said Jeff Ippiloto. "Definitely don't want to lose this place. Everybody has put a lot of time and effort into here."

"We are just trying to pick it up and move forward," Bustance said.

But it is not going to be easy.

The post owes back taxes, utility bills and although Chase Bank cut the mortgage debt nearly in half, the post has until April 27 to pay the bank $100,000. 

They called in Army veteran Rocky Raczkowski to help them rally the troops. On Tuesday night they came up with a plan of action.

Encouraging more veterans to join,  hosting fundraisers and promoting their GoFundMe account online.

If they don't come up with the money in time, Post 374 will lose the building to foreclosure and FOX 2 is told neighbors like Beaumont Hospital are interested in buying it.

"A $100,000 and then we can work on everything else," Raczkowski said. "We are asking the community to get involved and pitch in wherever they can."

So far they have raised $10,000 and just as they fought for our country, they plan to fight for this building.

"These are people who care for this country, love this country," Bustance said. "And  that's what it means to me."

The post considered other options like selling the building, paying off the debt and relocate to a smaller building, or looking toward a third-party lender but the interest rates were thought to be too high.

Instead they chosen to fight to keep the building. To contribute, CLICK HERE.

The post tried to go after the two people legally, but first members want to keep the building before pursuing the suspects who are in other states.
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