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Cimino: Veterans Center project in the works

Something wonderful this way cometh ...

It's going to take a while to develop but we have a new fund at the Community Foundation called the Carroll County Veterans Center Fund. It is a public-private partnership, the kind of project that Carroll County is very good at. It will be attacked in phases, the first of which will be acquisition; architectural design; meeting lead paint, asbestos and housing code issues; and finding the money to get the project off the ground. No small task.

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The county is in the process of acquiring the former Army Reserve property on Malcolm Drive in Westminster from the federal government to be used as a veterans center. It is a 5-acre parcel with two principle buildings on it and enough land for a garden, a playground and sports. The Veteran Services Program of Carroll County along with the Carroll County Veterans Council are inviting all interested parties and — by that we mean every veterans organization you can think of — as well as the general public to participate in this monumental and powerful project.

The Board of Commissioners approved on Thursday the first step in the possible creation of a homeless shelter and service center for veterans in Westminster.

Carroll County veterans of all wars have earned and deserve our respect and if they need help there will be a mechanism to deliver it. While the plans are preliminary at this point, they include shelter for the homeless vets and longer-term housing for them and their families. If the family includes a pet, the pet will be accommodated. Job training is vital and counseling services for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other related issues will be offered. The main building on Malcolm Drive is large enough to accommodate multipurpose rooms that could be used for a medical clinic, job training, presentations on multiple subjects, a library, physical conditioning and recreation.

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The goals are simple and complex at the same time. Life being life we will succeed with some and not others but it won't be because we don't try and in the end we will have something to be proud of.

The succeeding phases of the project — the actual building and repair of the property including the development of living spaces — will take a lot of time, effort and cooperation by all parties at all levels to plan and complete the build out, and furnish the building.

Once this dream project is completed someone needs to run it. The Carroll County Veterans Center will need a director and staff and many volunteers. This part of the project can be augmented by many nonprofit organizations in the community. They are already getting excited about it. We have medical organizations that could have clinic days, organizations that provide services for the disabled, councilors that will help with therapy, many veteran organizations that can provide comfort and company for residents, and animal groups that can help train service animals. There is a commercial kitchen. And although it is in need of a complete overhaul, it lends itself to more training opportunities and a common dining hall. Just a heads up to all you chefs out there. You are on my radar for this project just like everyone else.

There are so many opportunities to help here I'm afraid my head is going to explode from all the ideas. If we do this right and in my heart I know we will, we will have done a great thing for Carroll County but it also can serve as a model for other communities with these same issues and needs.

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Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.



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