After Hurricane Ida hit New Jersey in September of 2021, it flooded John W. Lupu Memorial Post 306 in Middlesex. The site of the damage to the post was jarring to 20-year member and Post Commander Matt Adams.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” said Adams of the first time he saw the damage.
But that wasn’t enough to deter Adams and the rest of the membership, which was determined to make the most of the difficult situation. The result of that resolve, and community support, was on full display May 15 during the post’s grand reopening.
“We knew we would rebuild,” Adams said. “I knew we were going to rebuild and … take this tragedy and turn it around and use this as an opportunity to make the post even better than it was. This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revamp the entire post, and we jumped on it.”
Adams said there was a bit of irony in that Post 306 was damaged by Ida. “Our post sits, literally, in the shadow of a massive flood-protection wall, but it’s not (completed),” Adams said. “It ends right in front of our parking lot. It’s been going on for 10 years, and it’s scheduled to be completed within the next five or six. But until it’s completed, we’re at risk.
“But in a way, the rebuild is a little easier to take because there’s hope that it will not happen again. It’s just will the flood wall get finished before the next floodwater surge. We’re hopeful that it will be done.”
Insurance covered $200,000 of the repairs needed, leaving the post $50,000. The rest of the money came through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and various donations from other post members and other individuals, from other civic organizations, as well as through The American Legion National Emergency Fund.
“It cannot go unsaid that the national American Legion awarded us $10,000 after we applied,” Adams said. “And that helped.”
Adams also said that many local contractors “cut us a break.” And he praised two Legion Family members for their efforts during the rebuild. “We had a team of Legionnaires that came together,” he said. “I have a house manager, our third vice (commander), Frank McGuire. Man, he acted as the general contractor, bringing everyone together. Frank and I spoke every single day, at least once, over the past eight months about the project. It brought us together as a leadership team.
“And a member of (Sons of The American Legion Squadron 306), Randy McConnell, he was there every single day as a representative of the post to be present while the contractors are there.”
The outside support during the rebuild, Adams, said showed how the community and Middlesex Borough officials view Post 306. Two members of the Middlesex Borough Council, Jeremiah Carnes and Martin Quinn, are members of the post.
“We are a steadfast, mainstay, beacon of community service and importance to Middlesex Borough and even the surrounding community,” Adams said. “We have a great relationship with the town governing body. We entered into a space-sharing agreement with the town that allowed us to use town property for our meetings during the (rebuild). Meanwhile, the town – when they have issues with facilities – can use our post. It’s a really symbiotic relationship we have with the town. We are really a lynchpin here in the community, and we are proud of it.”
The post closed for business for around five months before a gradual reopening as construction was completed in stages leading up to the grand reopening. Town council members attended the May 15 event, as did American Legion Department of New Jersey Commander Daniel Dunn.
Adams said during the ceremony “I welled up a couple of time. It was joyful. I don’t use that word lightly. It was joyful.”