The News Tribune - Thurston County Military Veterans Will Benefit From New Service Hub
By Andy Hobbs
An estimated 32,000 veterans in Thurston County now have a local one-stop shop for crucial services that can raise their quality of life.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday to dedicate the new Lacey Veterans Services Hub at 4232 Sixth Ave. SE, Suite 202. The facility brings together multiple service providers in one location to serve veterans who need housing, medical appointments, employment and more.
The hub has already helped more than 300 veterans since a soft opening in August. The goal is to reach at least 3,000 veterans -- roughly 10 percent of Thurston County's veteran population -- in the first year, said Derek Revisky, who heads SideWalk's Veteran Assistance Program.
"The idea is that every veteran will be served here," said Revisky, who was deployed twice to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. "There will be no missed veterans."
Veterans often have trouble transitioning to civilian life or staying out of poverty, for example, and many veterans don't know where to look to access their federal benefits. Gary Walker, chaplain with the American Legion Post 94, said the hub's cooperative approach will ensure that veterans can easily find the help they need.
"That way we don't lose these folks," said Walker, chairman of the Thurston County Veterans Advisory Board. "Before, we had all these organizations with veterans services, but they didn't know about each other."
Those who made the project come to fruition have credited the city of Lacey for taking the lead, especially by securing space for the hub on South Puget Sound Community College's Lacey campus. The city is contributing $100,000 a year from its general fund toward the hub's operation, said Mayor Andy Ryder, who emceed Friday's dedication.
Ryder told The Olympian that local veterans had been traveling north to vet centers in Tacoma and Federal Way for counseling and other social services. The Thurston County hub is a game-changer for veterans and is the only one of its kind in southwest Washington, he said.
As chairman of the National League of Cities' Military Communities Council, Ryder said he sought input from municipalities across the country, but had trouble finding a program for veterans that took a "convener" approach with local service agencies.
"This really started because we were told no," said Ryder, referring to a rejected federal funding request in 2014. "Why make a veteran have to jump through any more hoops?"
Congressman Denny Heck, D-Olympia, also praised Lacey for its role in the project.
"They put their money where their mouth was," said Heck, who reminded attendees Friday about the debt that society owes to military personnel who put their lives on the line. "The more we help our veterans, the better our community is."