CAMBRIDGE — Dorchester American Legion Post No. 91 in Cambridge has spent the past few years recovering from a 2016 fire that partially destroyed its building.
While the city of Cambridge offered as many resources as it could for the Post’s rebuilding, the project was just too big for a local government to take on alone.
The Post took out a hefty, half-million-dollar loan to restore and reopen the building, and legion leaders called out for financial help from the federal government and charity groups.
Three years after the fire, the U.S. Department of Agriculture answered Post 91’s call, stepping up with a $50,000 grant. USDA awarded the grant to the Post in September through its Economic Impact Initiative Grants program.
The grant is expected to go toward the purchase of new furnishings and equipment for the Post, but Tom Anderson, former commander of Post 91 and current advisory board member, said it might need to go toward paying off the loan instead.
Anderson said the half-million-dollar loan, which came from USDA and was used to restore the damaged building, has allowed the Post to get back on its feet.
Even so, he said, the money eventually needs to be paid back to USDA, which leaves the Post to decide how best to use the additional $50,000 grant.
Anderson said that decision will be up to stakeholders and the Post’s current commander, George Williams, once the grant is received.
Regardless of how the money ultimately is spent, Anderson said it will be put to good use because it’s “very much needed.”
He said receiving financial and physical support from the community and the country is a wonderful thing.
“We’re a Veterans organization and we all served our country in various capacities, so to be held in high esteem in the community like we are, with city government and state government, it means everything to us Veterans,” Anderson said. “This is our place of refuge and we do good things for the community.”
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who is a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees, applauded the USDA’s grant allocation to Post 91.
Van Hollen said, “Post 91 serves as a great resource to local Veterans and the greater Cambridge Community.”
“From the day-to-day services they offer Veterans, to their seasonal dances and crab feasts – they’ve got something for everyone,” he said. “Since the fire in 2016, Post 91 has worked hard to rebuild, and these funds will continue to help them in those efforts.”
Van Hollen’s sentiments were echoed by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, D-Md., a member of the Senate Finance Committee, who said he “knew that a lightning strike and fire would never deter American Legion Dorchester Post No. 91 from providing much-needed support to Veterans in Cambridge and the local region.”
“This federal grant is an important part of their ongoing effort to rebuild and keep up services and activities for our local Veterans,” Cardin said. “I will continue to advocate for robust federal funding for our Veterans in Cambridge and throughout Maryland.”
American Legion Post 91 took up temporary refuge in Governor’s Hall at Sailwinds in Cambridge following the fire, but it has since reopened its new building on Radiance Drive.
USDA’s Economic Impact Initiative Grants program provides funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas, according to USDA’s website.
The Department defines an essential community facility as one that “provides an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a primarily rural area, and does not include private, commercial, or business undertakings.”
For more information about Dorchester American Legion Post 91, or to make a donation to its recovery, visit the Dorchester Post 91 American Legion Facebook page.