Wednesday, August 22
Northeast Veterans Training and Rehabilitation Center
3 Victory Lane, Gardner, Massachusetts
Next to Mount Wachusett Community College
5 pm – 7 pm
Gardner – Veteran Homestead Inc., an independent, non-profit organization that provides housing and care to U.S. Armed Services veterans who are elderly, disabled or diagnosed with a terminal illness, will dedicate the final 10 homes at its Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center (NVTRC) tomorrow, from 5 pm to 7 pm. The NVTRC, specific to veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan wars, is one of six facilities that Veteran Homestead created and oversees in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico to serve veterans needing medical, psychological, and spiritual care.
The event will welcome Coleman Nee, Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Services, and Tyrene Hodge, Foundation Field Manager of Home Depot, as special guests among others. One of the new units will be dedicated to Home Depot, a Veteran Homestead supporter. Veteran Homestead founder and CEO, Leslie Lightfoot, who served as a U.S. Army medic during Vietnam from 1967-1970, will host the event. Today a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress, Lightfoot witnessed the effects of physical and brain injuries on soldiers during her career in the service, as well as in the years afterward caring for veterans.
The NVTRC facility focuses on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), two of the most common maladies suffered by veterans of these wars. It is the only facility of its kind in the United States that serves these afflicted veterans and their families by offering housing, physical therapy, counseling and college courses. The facility can also accommodate amputees and burn patients. There is a therapy dog-training program, as well. Veteran Homestead wants to replicate this type of facility across the U.S.
Life With Dignity
The homes at NVTRC are designed to provide both comfort and dignity to veterans and their families. The soon to be dedicated group of 10 homes doubles the number at the facility, the first group having opened in October 2010. Each 2-bedroom home offers approximately 1,200 square feet of living space and comes equipped with all appliances. Like all Veteran Homestead facilities, the NVTRC complex is sized so that each veteran in its care can receive maximum attention from the staff.
Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
Designed for energy efficiency, the NVTRC facility and 20 homes are heated and cooled by geothermal pumps, while solar panels on the roofs generate electricity resulting in no electric bills as well as giving back to the regional grid.
About Veteran Homestead, Inc.
Veteran Homestead raises funds through its own efforts and receives some state and federal support. The organization directs 90% of funding to the veterans in its direct care and 10% to grant writing and fund raising. Other Veteran Homestead facilities include:
• The Veteran Homestead Hospice – Fitchburg, Mass.: The only privately run, veteran-specific hospice in the country.
• The Veteran Victory Farm – Fitzwilliam, N.H.: A working organic farm for veterans with substance abuse issues and mild TBI — the first one in the country.
• La Hacienda de Veteranos – Caguas, P.R.: The only facility of its kind in Puerto Rico, it serves homeless veterans, focusing on restoring a sense of self-worth.
• The Hero Homestead – Leominster, Mass.: For elderly homeless veterans.
• The Armistice Homestead – Leominster, Mass.: Substance abuse after care for homeless veterans.
Veteran Homestead facilities encourage residents to handle as many of their own needs as they can and to help each other through the transition from homelessness to independent living. Residents must commit to a drug-free, alcohol-free lifestyle and be willing to contribute toward the support of the program.
Veterans In Need
• The Veterans Administration estimates that, as of September 30, 2011, there were 212,337 homeless veterans aged 18-30, with 144,842 of those in shelters. Homelessness among women veterans increased 141% between 2006 and 2010. By their own admission the VA is only seeing 1/3 of returned veterans.
• Families of service men and women are subject to severe emotional and financial strain associated with the disruption caused by multiple tours of duty. The divorce rate among returning wounded veterans is 84%, and it is not uncommon for a veteran to return to an empty bank account, a home foreclosure and a family in crisis.
• The Veterans Administration is treating more than 210,000 service men and women from Iraq and Afghanistan for PTSD; more than 67,000 are classified as disabled.
• The Department of Defense estimates that 360,000 service men and women have some type of blast-related brain injury, however, many returning veterans don’t even realize they have a traumatic brain injury.