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‘This is the first step’: Carroll County Veterans Independence Project opens its doors in Westminster

From left, Sgt. First Class Michael Beard of the Maryland Army National Guard 29th Military Police Company, Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees, Carroll County Veterans Independence Project executive director Jason Sidock, Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Robert Finn and CCVIP vice president Ed Cramer ready a sword as they prepare to cut a cake to celebrate the 246st birthday of the US Army at the grand opening celebration of the CCVIP in Westminster Monday, June 14, 2021.
From left, Sgt. First Class Michael Beard of the Maryland Army National Guard 29th Military Police Company, Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees, Carroll County Veterans Independence Project executive director Jason Sidock, Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Robert Finn and CCVIP vice president Ed Cramer ready a sword as they prepare to cut a cake to celebrate the 246st birthday of the US Army at the grand opening celebration of the CCVIP in Westminster Monday, June 14, 2021. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

After several years of work, the Carroll County Veterans Independence Project held a grand opening for its office in Westminster with the intention of serving as a one-stop shop for veterans services.

“Now the real work begins,” Frank Valenti, CCVIP president, said. “This is the first step of several steps to bringing veterans independence so they can live the life they want.”

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The Veterans Services Center at 95 Carroll Street, Suite 104, will help veterans and their families by providing case management services, mentors, volunteer opportunities, education, career preparation and more.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there were 11,000 veterans in Carroll County as of July 2019.

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While there is no shortage of organizations willing to help veterans, Valenti, with the help of many others, believed in the benefits of coordinating these resources in one place. CCVIP became a nonprofit in 2017 to achieve that goal.

With Carroll County Veterans Independence Project board vice president and Army veteran Frank A. Valenti, right, retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer Charles Sidock presents a flag given to the CCVIP by US Rep. Jamie Raskin to Sgt. First Class Michael Beard of the Maryland Army National Guard 29th Military Police Company at the grand opening celebration of the CCVIP in Westminster Monday, June 14, 2021.
With Carroll County Veterans Independence Project board vice president and Army veteran Frank A. Valenti, right, retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer Charles Sidock presents a flag given to the CCVIP by US Rep. Jamie Raskin to Sgt. First Class Michael Beard of the Maryland Army National Guard 29th Military Police Company at the grand opening celebration of the CCVIP in Westminster Monday, June 14, 2021. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Valenti told the Times that veterans in Carroll County usually have to travel outside of the county to access some of the services they need. While free transportation is provided to veterans to help them get to their appointments, a long trip is still necessary.

The new space is the “next phase” in providing services a little closer to home for Carroll residents.

“Today is for our veterans of this county and beyond,” Jason Sidock, CCVIP executive director, said at the event, mentioning a number of “wonderful partners” that help made the project possible.

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State Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, said “so many people have been a part of the process.”

“We’re cheering you on,” Ready said. “There are so many people around the room that are certainly heroes … this is how we repay those that put their lives on the line for us.”

Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said he is “extradentary grateful this place is up and running,” as it will serve as a hub for veterans services.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said the center will help veterans “fit back into society” and will not only serve them but also their families.

“It’s great to see the community out today supporting veterans,” Robert Finn, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, said. He added Carroll is really “setting the pace” for providing veterans services in the state, with three services officers in the county.

The center will have a paid staff but also be supported by volunteers and work with organizations such as Carroll County Government, Access Carroll, the Literacy Council of Carroll County, Carroll Community College and Human Services Programs of Carroll County.

The dream of providing a shelter for homeless veterans is on the horizon. Valenti said that project is currently underway with results expected within the next few years.

The event concluded with the cutting of a cake in celebration of the U.S. Army’s 246th birthday.

Those interested in supporting CCVIP can learn more by visiting carrollcountyvip.org.

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