Riders contribute $16k, meet goal to build elevator at Merrimack VFW

A challenge launched two years ago to secure a total of $27,000 in funds to “Give a Vet a Lift” by building a handicapped-accessible elevator at the Merrimack VFW Post 8641 has succeeded.

About $16,000 for the project was raised, thanks to a fundraiser – a scenic, nearly 100-mile ride – sponsored by a Merrimack-based riding organization the New Hampshire American Legion Riders Chapter 15 Post 98.

The turnout July 9 included mostly motorcyclists from the American Legion Riders and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association along with numerous unaffiliated riders.

In attendance were many folks from the community. Allen Lindahl, a well-known local beekeeper and owner of Hillside Apiaries in Merrimack, motored into the Merrimack VFW at 282 Daniel Webster Highway aboard his Harley for the pre-ride breakfast prepared for the group by volunteer chefs Winston Norway and Dick Peterson.

Lindahl was preceded by his wife, Dianne, aboard her big, shiny Harley-Dee. Ahead of that couple was local businessman Craig Caron from nearby Caron’s Mobil gas station. Tommy Gannon then pulled in. He’s a local Harley owner who is a stalwart supporter of veterans’ causes and one who also is always ready for a hearty breakfast.

The run left the Merrimack VFW and headed to Hillsborough American Legion Post 59 before continuing on to the Jaffrey VFW Post 5613 and the Milford VFW Post 4368, said Jeannie Malouin, secretary of NH-ARL Chapter 15.

Then, it circled back toward the Merrimack American Legion Post 98, at 43 Baboosic Lake Road, not far from the Merrimack Police Department.

Chapter officers and participants were united in thanking the Merrimack Police Department for an escort through town and the police departments of Goffstown and Peterborough for assistance in controlling traffic and making the ride safe and memorable.

“When we returned to the Merrimack American Legion, a huge barbecue was waiting for us,” Malouin said. “It was hosted by TEAM D.A.V.E. (Disabled American Veterans Everywhere) and there was no shortage of hot dogs, hamburgers, salads and lots of amazing chicken wings donated by the Jade Dragon in The Commons shopping center.”

Malouin said everyone was quick to thank the barbecue cooks, Mike Driscoll, Dave Merrill, John Garstang, Jen McCormick and Rick Comtois. Afterward, the crowd were entertained by vocalist Caroline Mead and singer/guitarist Andrew McGarrah.

Then, Merrimack’s own five-member music group, The Miner Band, kicked into gear and played for more than six hours in a show of support. The Miner family band performs at many veterans’ events.

Raffle prizes went home with some lucky winners. Frank’s Place deli and sub gift certificates and others from Brown’s Village Depot were donated by Dave Merrill. Mike Powers, the properties director for two local YMCA’s, donated a one-year family membership to the YMCA, a $1,000 value.

The “Life is Good” T-shirt store in Hudson donated men’s and women’s gift sets. In addition, the Merrimack VFW Post 8641 donated a $50 Visa gift card and Interstate Battery of Merrimack donated a battery gift package.

Some contributions were made that accelerated the fundraiser. In addition to the funds forwarded by the 36 riders and their passengers, local residents contributed. Members of the NH-ALR Chapters 2 and 14 and the Combat Veterans Association riders also did their share.

Paul Gagnon donated $1,000 and Karen Morrison-Poulack donated $1,500.

Charles Lucas, a member of NH-ALR’s Chapter 15 contributed $4,000 and Steve Munzing, assistant director of NH-ALR’s Chapter 15 also donated $4,000, capping the fundraiser in fine style.

A special acknowledgement also was made to members of TEAM D.A.V.E., who led the way in fundraising for the project for more than two years. Team members include Sue Mead, Tracy Doliber, John Garstang, Mike Driscoll, Mike Morin and Dave Merrill.

Max Quayle, a Vietnam veteran and commander of the nonprofit VFW Post, praised the venture. He reminded supporters that those who are handicapped, veterans or not, are increasing in number and the afflicted find it difficult to get into the lower level and upper level of the building, unless they are carried.

The post hosts numerous functions each year and also makes available a second-floor banquet hall for rent as a site for graduation parties, corporate meetings, senior citizens’ events and other gatherings.

“Our focus,” said Quayle upon launching the project two years ago, “not only is the vet returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who is disabled, it’s the older vet from Korea or Vietnam who is suffering from arthritis, back pain or heart problems related to aging. A lift will be a godsend for all of them and for others who visit here.”

It is hoped that with the success of this most recent event, the elevator installation may be completed by the VFW’s 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 9. Donations by mail are welcome. Checks made out to “VFW Lift Fund” can be mailed to Merrimack VFW Post 8641, P.O. Box 157, Merrimack, NH 03054. More information can be had by calling 424-7719.