Anaheim Fire & Rescue joins police, city volunteers to repair American Legion Post 72

By Karen Meeks

For nearly 100 years, American Legion Anaheim Post 72 has been a fixture in the community, helping children, veterans, and those in need.

This time, Post 72 was the recipient of kindness. About 35 people from Anaheim Fire & Rescue, the Anaheim Police Department, and Anaheim Community Services Department spent Saturday morning sprucing up Post 72’s base on 936 North Lemon Street, a 69-year-old building that has seen a lot of wear and tear.

Volunteers paint the walls at the American Legion Hall Post 72 in Anaheim during The Big Give Anaheim Employee Day of Service.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“This is a great thing,” Post 72 Commander Paul Deis said as he watched a swarm of city employees in purple T-shirts get to work. “It’s beautiful. It’s going to be a great help to us.”

The work at Post 72 — part of The Big Give, a volunteer day that drew more than 200 Anaheim employees to various projects citywide — was a literally a top-to-bottom effort, from firefighters unclogging drains on the roof to public works folks repaving the parking lot.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Helms, left, and Anaheim Police Officer John Robinson, right, help clean out the rain gutters from the roof of American Legion Hall Post 72.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Among them, hard at work, was Anaheim Fire Deputy Chief Patrick Russell.

“Every day we are out in the community helping people with emergencies, but to take some time to help with a project that benefits veterans is a unique opportunity we are proud to be a part of,” Russell said. “This hall has been here forever, so to help rehab a piece of Anaheim history is pretty cool too.”

Community Services Director Larry Pasco pants next to portraits on display.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Post 72 is as old as the American Legion itself, Deis said. In 1919, when the American Legion was created, various posts were quickly and enthusiastically established throughout the country, including Post 72.

In the early years, Post 72 met in the basement of Anaheim’s former city hall before the current building on Lemon Street was built in 1949. At one point, Post 72 boasted nearly 1,000 members. Other than an expansion in the 1960s, the building hadn’t seen much renovation work until Saturday.

Volunteers gather at the Anaheim Civic Center at the start of The Big Give Anaheim Employee Day of Service.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim Police Sgt. Brennan Leininger, who led the team on the massive renovation project, spoke about his fondness and respect for veterans. Leininger, a United States Air Force veteran, was inspired by his grandfather, who served in World War II and the Korean War.

“He instilled in me a sense of pride for our military at an early age, so I try to do whatever I can to give back to our veteran community,” he said. “It’s a blessing to assemble so many people to come out and so many donations from community businesses.”

Volunteers listen as Mayor Tom Tait welcomes everyone to The Big Give Anaheim Employee Day of Service.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The R.J. Noble Co., Home Depot, and Mobile Janitorial Supply in Anaheim donated the materials and supplies for the various repairs, including replacing the faucet, landscaping, refurbishing the wood floors, and painting.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Nicole Nelson, 21, helped re-carpet the stage in Post 72’s hall.

Sixteen-year-old Nolan Wyatt paints the walls at American Legion Hall Post 72.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It was an opportunity to give back,” she said. “I’ve lived in Anaheim all my life. It’s given me so many opportunities, so I have to give back.”

For lifelong Anaheim resident Frankie Hernandez, a city employee for 35 years and first vice commander of Post 72, the building is a touchstone for its 200 members.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Jacob Flynn, left, volunteers with Anaheim Police Department Acting Chief Julian Harvey as they pull carpet at the American Legion Hall.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“These men and women come from different branches of service and different eras of military service, but what we all have in common is the common good of serving your country,” he said. “It’s going to look better and feel better for our members.”

Six-year-old Trevor Simpson reaches to paint the walls at the American Legion Hall Post 72 with help from Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Nicole Nelson.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim Police Sgt. Brennan Leininger, left, gathers as assignments are handed out during The Big Give at American Legion Hall in Anaheim.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Natali Rudometkin, Community Engagement Specialist for Anaheim Fire & Rescue during The Big Give Anaheim Employee Day of Service.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Elsa Covarrubias, community engagement manager, left, and Natali Rudometkin, Community Engagement Specialist for Anaheim Fire & Rescue during The Big Give Anaheim Employee Day of Service.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC