Ranch & Coast Magazine

September 2023

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Page 59 of 115

"e building has a lot of history, and we've done our best to bandage it up over the years," says Steve Lewandowski, a Navy veteran and third generation Legionnaire, who is also a past commander of Post 416. But despite their best efforts, after more than nine decades, there is termite damage throughout and the roof leaks. e time has come for a new building, and Post 416 has just launched a capital campaign for a new two-story structure that takes full advantage of the building's lot and location. Designed by DZN Partners of Encinitas, the new building will include meeting space for the Legion and other veterans groups, as well as offices for veteran services. It could even include daycare for local military families, a critical need of service members with children. "Many people just know us as a bar," says Lewandowski. "And we are a bar. But that is only a small component of what we do." Post 416 is responsible for resurrecting and overseeing American Legion Baseball throughout San Diego, a program that had been dormant for 30 years, but one that now includes more than 25 teams and 500 players across the county. e Legion also sponsors an oratorical contest in which local high school juniors prepare and give a speech on the U.S. Constitution. Winners move on to state and national championships with an opportunity to earn scholarship money for college. Over the past 93 years, roughly 10,000 veterans have been members of Post 416. In the early days, Encinitas was still something of a Western town, and there are pictures of horses tied up outside the building. e Legion places high importance on preserving American traditions, improving the quality of life for our nation's children, caring for veterans and their families, honoring those who came before us, and teaching the fundamentals of good citizenship. It's also the world's largest veterans' organization, with 29 posts in San Diego County and more than 400 in California. ere are some 12,000 posts across the country, and Post 416 is one of the very few — less than one half of one percent — to receive the National Commander's Award for Post Excellence. From Lewandowski's perspective, this is a once-in-a-lifetime project that should be done right. "We've needed a new place for a long time now, and this won't be done again for another hundred years," he says. Lewandowski is also quick to add that it is not just veterans that the legion serves. ere are four prongs to the Legion organization: the American Legion; the American Legion Auxiliary, which includes spouses; Sons of the American Legion, which includes not only sons but also daughters, cousins, uncles, and aunts of military veterans; and the American Legion Riders, a patriotic motorcycle group. All told, Post 416 has more than 800 active members. Serving veterans and their families from Del Mar, Encinitas, Carmel Valley, and Rancho Santa Fe, the San Dieguito American Legion has been an integral part of the North County community for nearly 100 years, and Lewandowski and others are striving to set the stage for another century of good works. sdpost416.org RENDERING COURTESY OF DZN PARTNERS Focus military << ranchandcoast.com 60 SEPTEMBER 2023 RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE A rendering of the proposed new Legion building by DZN Partners shows a two story structure that takes full advantage of the building's lot and location

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