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Dignity Commons Military Housing Celebrates New Pergola

The Alameda Elks, in conjunction with Operation Dignity, commemorated the completed construction of a pergola at the Dignity Commons military housing on Saturday.

Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft was in attendance and delivered a speech at the dedication.

Alameda Post - Mayor Ashcraft speaks at the new pergola at Dignity Commons
Mayor Ashcraft delivers a speech in commeration of the newly constructed pergola at Dignity Commons. Photo Vicky Nguyen.

“As the veterans move into Dignity Commons here at the former Naval Air Station, they will be walked in with dignity by this outdoor trellis pergola area where they and their families can gather, build camaraderie, and socialize,” Mayor Ashcraft said in her speech. “…When you provide outdoor gathering spaces, you don’t need to do much more. People will gravitate to them. They will use them. There will be birthday parties and celebrations and picnics and just relaxation on a lovely afternoon or a lovely evening.”’

Staff at Dignity Commons hope that the pergola will become a place to host future events as well as an inviting place for residents to congregate.

Mary Elise Cooper, Program and Site Supervisor at Dignity Commons thanked the Elks at the dedication following the Mayor’s speech. “This is absolutely beautiful. Our veterans were very excited seeing it being constructed. It brings light in this property to them,” Cooper said.

The project to construct the pergola started in May 2020 and was led by Steve Giddens, former Alameda Elks Exalted Ruler. During a trip to hand out housing supplies for troops, the Elks saw a large unused area at Dignity Commons that they felt they could transform.

Alameda Post - in progress photos of the Dignity Commons pergola
From gathering funds to construction, many people worked together to bring the pergola to life. Photos Joe LoParo.

“Other than just staring at a big, open, empty lawn, we wanted to make sure that they had that space for compassion—the ability for people to be with people, to see with people, and hang with people. And so that’s where we came up with it,” said current Alameda Elks Exalted Ruler Mark Graham.

A $10,000 grant from the Elks national organization was used to help finance the project. The Alameda Elks added an additional $10,000 through various fundraisers.

“We felt that this was necessary just for the camaraderie of the area, to get people from behind their screens and get them out to be social again, one-on-one or with many. We feel that this is going to be an anchor point for us to be able to go out and do things like pancake breakfasts, or barbecue lunches, or little things like that,” Graham said. “And by extension, we want to be able to get out there and do things to show the appreciation that we have for our veterans and let them know they’re not forgotten.”

Alameda Post - a photo of the new pergola and a plaque that says "Donated by Alameda Elks Lodge #1015 to support our veteran brothers and sisters. February 2024" the Alameda Elks logo is also present
Left: The construction of the pergola was made possible by a grant from Elks Lodge. Photo Vicky Nguyen. Right: The completed pergola will likely mark the site of many celebrations to come. Photo Joe LoParo.

Throughout the dedication, speakers repeated the sentiment that the new pergola stands as a reminder to recognize veterans and the military.

“You’re not forgotten, we care about you, we see you, and we’re going to step up and work with you,” Mayor Ashcraft said.

Operation Dignity helps unhoused veterans in Alameda, Berkeley, and Oakland.

Vicky Nguyen is a contributing writer for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at

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