Push for veterans center continues
Memorial Trust organizers hope to nail down deal for downtown location
3/18/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
KINGMAN - The Kingman Veterans Memorial Trust is still hoping to open the doors on a unique veterans center in downtown Kingman this fall despite being snubbed by the Arizona Department of Veterans Services.
"This is about helping kids with (post traumatic stress disorder)," said trustee Rick Shelby.
The trust wants to create a place where all Arizona veterans can go for help for their problems, a place they can escape to and cool down or relax when things get a little rough at home, trustee Connie Hall said.
The KVMT has already scouted out a location and is negotiating a possible lease with the owners of the Central Commercial Building downtown.
"It's open and full of light. We don't want to stick them in some dark cave," Hall said.
"All Northern Arizona veterans would be welcome - even those who may have received a less than honorable discharge," Shelby said.
The trust has been collection donations from the community through its Operation Help-A-Vet, which also provides funding for other trust projects.
Trustees were really excited last July when Arizona Department of Veterans Services Director Joey Strickland suggested his office might be able to help the trust get $35,000 in seed money.
Shelby said the trust filled out the paperwork last fall for a $60,000 grant from the department and waited.
He was disappointed when he received a letter Jan. 31 stating the group didn't get any funding. He appealed the decision and found out that their application had been rejected because it "duplicated some services that were already in the area" - specifically counseling services, which are available in Lake Havasu City.
"This is something different," Shelby said. "I think they thought this was going to be a coffee bar or something, but it's something completely different."
The key purpose of the center is to provide a place where veterans suffering from PTSD can get help anonymously without resorting to prescription drugs to control their symptoms, Shelby said. The federal government offers veterans help for all kinds of mental health issues.
"But as soon as you walk in that door, you're tagged with a mental health problem and that can hurt their future in the service," he said. "This would be something totally new. Some of these kids are so hyped up on drugs (to control PTSD) that they can't function. They can't have a normal life."
"We want to provide an alternative. We want to give them something better," Hall said.
The trust is hoping to fill the building with exercise equipment, TVs, sofas, games and other activities to give veterans and their families a comfortable place to take a break from their problems, Shelby said. A place where they can talk to their peers or a professional counselor or find some comfort with a therapy dog and stay out of trouble.
No alcohol or drugs would be allowed in the facility.
Office space would also be made available to state and federal agencies so veterans can find out about some of the services at their disposal.
"We want to have as many opportunities as possible available for them," Hall said.
The trust has been working overtime to find the funds to open the center's doors this fall. It needs about $25,000 to cover at least the first two months and a total of $60,000 to make it through the year.
"That's our pie in the sky budget," Shelby said. "We can cut that down."
"We've got a lot of people who are willing to donate time, money and materials to make this happen," Hall said. "We're already getting calls about when we're going to open."
To donate to the trust, contact Hall at chall@KVMT.org, call (928) 266-3600 or donate online at KVMT.org.