The Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs broke ground Friday in Grand Junction on a state-funded one-stop-shop service center for veterans and military families.
The Western Region OneSource is scheduled to open in May and will support the 40,000 veterans living in 24 counties on Colorado’s Western Slope. The center would be modeled on the Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center in Colorado Springs.
The center will provide a range of services to veterans, including benefits, counseling, housing assistance, family support, identification cards and a service officer.
Although most of the services exist in or around Grand Junction, officials say having them under one roof will save veterans time and frustration.
“The needs here in the region are no different than anywhere in any state,” said David Callahan, acting director for the western region of Colorado’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
To meet those needs, a former Colorado National Guard armory half a mile from Grand Junction’s Veterans Affairs medical center will be renovated. A bus line will run between both sites, allowing veterans quick and easy access.
While the OneSource facility will operate similarly to Mount Carmel, the two locations differ in one crucial way — the construction of the Western Slope OneSource won’t require private investors.
“This is the first center to be fully funded by state construction funds,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, executive director of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
The renovation will cost the state $3.5 million, and officials aim to keep that money local. The materials will be procured locally when possible, and the contractors and labor will come from the Grand Junction area, Loh said.
“We want this to be self-sustaining,” Callahan said. “It will remain state owned but locally operated.”
Sponsorships and partnerships will make that possible. Agencies will be able to sponsor rooms, and partners will rent out space providing a revenue stream capable of paying four full-time state personnel.
If the Western Region OneSource can remain self-sustainable it will provide a model for future veteran’s service facilities across the state, Loh said.
“This will be the first test,” he said.
“The consolidation will be nice,” said Rick Avery, a Marine Corps and Army veteran living in Grand Junction. Avery and his family now have to travel to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs every time they need new ID cards.
“For us, it isn’t too bad. But the older veterans have a problem going that far,” Avery said.
State-funded projects such as the Western Region OneSource will further localize support for Colorado’s growing veteran population, now over 400,000. And veterans are not the type to take and not give, Callahan said.
“They are service orientated,” he said. “They can lead the resurgence of any community.”