Robert Guastella is hoping for some good karma.
The commander of the American Legion Post located on the border of Williston Park and Albertson emceed an art auction inside the post’s ballroom Saturday afternoon looking to raise funds for repairs that become more needed each time it rains.
But the event was long on enthusiasm and a little short on money.
“Well the show was not as good money-wise but everyone was happy who showed up. We will do this again,” Guastella wrote in an email afterwards.
The legion needs about $22,000 to repair a roof that appears to let in as much rain as it keeps out, he said.
Guastella said that to raise the money the legion will hold more art auctions in the fall with watercolor pieces from local studios and from Dave Rappaport, an artist who makes a living creating watercolor prints of famous wartime photos.
The most expensive works had a starting bid of $800.
Outside the ballroom, Guastella points to the decaying ceiling of the legion’s foyer. The rain seeping through has created rusted holes throughout the entrance to the community’s banquet house.
“This was a good ole boys club. When you couldn’t go out and do anything, you did stuff at the post,” Guastella said. “You had the fun night on Friday night, barbecues on Saturdays, the parade, you did stuff here. With that, you built a business. That ballroom there was built by the members in the seventies, they built that room.”
There are still some community members who will spend their free time making repairs to the legion, always for free, he said.
But, Guastella said, the free time is limited.
A few electrical repairs are on hold since his guy is busy and the legion can’t afford to pay the costs it takes to take up time in the electrician’s schedule.
Guastella said the legion just spent $2,000 in floor repairs and needs to save money for plowing its crumbling parking lots come wintertime.
“Plowing can be three-, four- , five-thousand dollars for the season,” Guastella said. “If I rent the halls in the winter, people need to be able to come to their parties.”
Downstairs from the art auction, a baptism is taking place.
A member of the legion’s women’s auxiliary politely points all those who enter in either direction. It’s about an even split between those who go upstairs and those who go downstairs.
“We help Troop 200, Troop 200 of the Boy Scouts. We give them the rooms here for nothing. The elderly have dances here, we have special dances for special children three times a year and that’s all freebies that we give away to the community,” Guastella said.
State Sen. Jack Martins stopped by later that day, posed for some photos and left. The County Executive’s office issued a citation.
Guastella said the local TV news outlets told him thanks, but no thanks when he invited them.
“We’re hoping we can get something back,” Guastella said, his voice quickening. “Donations. Donations are welcome. They want to send them here — American Legion Post 144 on 731 Willis Ave., please do so. We, we would greatly appreciate it.”