Giving back to those who serve

0415_Lifestyle_American_Legion_JP_01_BWBy Michele E. Buttelman  , The Signal Features Editor -

The small building at the corner of Spruce and 11th streets in Newhall began life as the American Theater.

The movie theater was built by Western silent film star William S. Hart and donated to American Legion Post 507. The theater was designed by nationally renowned cinema architect S. Charles Lee.

It opened on May 23, 1941, with a dedication ceremony attended by Hart. Hart asked only that one Western a week be shown at the theater, in addition to the contemporary films of the day.

The theater closed in 1965 and the building was converted to the meeting and entertainment center for Post 507.

The building is now a renovation project for SCV Habitat for Heroes.

“The American Legion guys have come out to all of our builds,” said project co-chairwoman Jeri Seratti Goldman. “They have been so passionate and helpful. On our last project, they told us about how their building needed so much work so we decided to raise the money to help fix up the property.”

To raise the needed funds for the renovation a benefit comedy show will be held on May 18 at Real Life Church.

The Family Comedy Night will feature the Standup Guys – Robert G. Lee, Kenn Kington and Bob Smiley.

“Real Life Church has agreed to donate the use of the church for the event,” said Goldman.

Title sponsor is Providence Health Services. The Southern California Gas Co., KHTS and Real Life Church are co-sponsors.

The project to renovate the historic building will be extensive, Goldman said. New drywall, flooring and bathrooms will be installed.

In addition, new pool and poker tables will be installed and other items to enhance the post.

Fast Frame will design a wall in the post to feature framed photos of currently serving SCV servicemen and women.  A special area will be designed for the SCV’s fallen soldiers, said Rosemary Longan of Fast Frame

“This building needs work and improvements to help the American Legion raise money to help fund their activities,” said Michael Mizrahi, project co-chairman. “This will allow them to continue to do the kind of community outreach that they previously were able to do.”

Mizrahi said the comedy concert will be family friendly and a fun evening for everyone.

“A good belly laugh is medicine for the soul, isn’t it?” he said. “A lot of people are under a lot of pressure today and comedy is a wonderful way to release that pressure. In addition, families are looking for things they can do together.”

Mizrahi said the project is a chance to give back to SCV veterans.

“It’s our opportunity to give back in small measure what they’ve given to us,” he said. “It’s also a chance to welcome them home, since many are now completing their tours of duty.”

Mizrahi said the SCV Habitat for Heroes is a unique brand under the auspices of the SCV and San Fernando Valley chapter of Habit for Humanity.

SCV Habitat for Heroes works to renovate and make improvements in the homes of veterans and servicemen and woman. It also is seeking to build a community for veterans in the SCV.

“We’re helping veterans where they live now in the SCV,” said Mizrahi. “We’re so excited that so many people have stepped up and helped.”

Steve Lavaeddin, a board member of Habitat of Humanity said it is important to support our SCV veterans.

“Our vets have given so much to our country,” Lavaeddin said. “We want to be able to help veterans have affordable housing and better living conditions.”

Emily Doyle, Habitat events coordinator, said the American Legion project is very personal for her.

“My dad is a Vietnam veteran, so this project is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “This project means more to me than just about anything.”

Donna Deutchman, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, said it is important to find out what members of the post want for their space.

“Our goal is twofold, to honor our veterans and to provide the veterans of the SCV with a space they can rent out to the public to provide funds for their own programming,” she said. “We want this space to be an asset to the community, too. We want this project to serve the American Legion members and we want to make the space the way they want it.”

mbuttelman@the-signal.com

661-287-5590