Struggling up the steep concrete porch steps at the Vale American Legion hall has never been for the faint of heart – and certainly not for the faint of knees.


Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising high school project and the sweat equity of volunteers, there’s now a safer way for community members to get to gatherings in the hall on Water Street in Vale.


Volunteers from the community and the volunteer Home Depot Team last week put the finishing touches on a new ramp at the building, built to code for gradual access to the porch level.


The project dates back a couple of years, when Charlene Pelland, an allied health teacher in the Poverty to Prosperity program, mentioned the access challenge to her students. Members of Post 96, she noted, are veterans, and many who use the hall for meetings have age- or health-related issues that make the steep steps difficult.


Lucero Nuñez, a senior this year, thought it would make a good senior class project.


A year earlier, the effort got a start with another student, Jonathan Harris. He refurbished a motorcycle and held a drawing for it. The proceeds – $1,000 – grew when the winner resold the bike and donated the proceeds back to help the Legion post with building improvements.


Lucero embraced the project, starting with a tamale sale that netted $1,400. That success was fueled by donations of food from Logan’s Market and a local meat packer.

Student organizer Lucero Nunez, with Charlene Pelland and construction volunteers, pauses at the site as the work got underway in earnest last week. (submitted photo) Student organizer Lucero Nunez, with Charlene Pelland and construction volunteers, pauses at the site as the work got underway in earnest last week. (submitted photo)

She also held a car wash, but the effort really took shape when Lucero, working with Veterans Advocates as her sponsor, applied for grants.


Lucero succeeded in securing a $1,000 grant from the Wood Family Foundation and another grant from Home Depot that covered materials worth some $1,400.


The Home Depot Team, made up of company workers who volunteer for community-benefit construction projects, stepped up to provide free labor at the site last week. With Legion volunteers helping, the ramp took shape over just a couple of days.


Lucero also researched costs for a railing, which will be installed soon by Ontario Welding.


Pelland said the completion of the project is a credit to Lucero’s tenaciousness. Finishing up at Vale High, the senior also is studying at Treasure Valley Community College in the certified nursing assistant program.


“She’s a phenomenal young lady,” said Pelland, noting Lucero has received honors for her project.