The Disabled American Veterans Dunger Smith Chapter 44 in Cortez hopes to open a veterans outreach center by Labor Day.
The outreach center would provide a place for local veterans and their families to obtain information about assistance programs, employment opportunities and Veterans Administration benefits. The center would also serve as a gathering place for veterans to socialize.
“We want to reach out to all of our veterans,” said DAV adjutant commander Darla Sanders.
An Air Force veteran, Sanders is calling on the community to help get the project off the ground. Located at the intersection of South Market and West First streets, ongoing renovations of the building, including a disabled ramp, are expected to be completed by Sept. 1.
“Stop on by and lend us a hand if you can,” said Sanders.
Sanders explained the 1,000-square-foot, five-room facility would include a reception area with informational brochures, a library and television room, a conference room for meetings and seminars, a wireless computer resource room and a kitchenette.
“Our intention is to lease the building for one full year to see how the program progresses,” said Sanders. “If it’s a success, we will look into obtaining a long-term lease.”
The owner of the building has agreed to discount the rent in exchange for sweat equity to renovate the structure, a blessing for Sanders, who said an outreach center had been a pipe dream of hers for years.
“When veterans feel love and support from their community, then it can change their whole outlook on life,” said Sanders.
Several other local agencies also offer support and services to area veterans. Hospice of Montezuma County provides veterans and their families with guidance on making end of life issues, and Vista Mesa Assisted Living Facility offers in-patient residential options and even daily activities for non-residents wishing to socialize.
Montezuma County Veterans Service Officer Rick Torres praised DAV, Hospice and Vista Mesa officials for helping to reach out to veterans.
“These partners are part of a team that are dedicated to helping our local veterans get the benefits they’re owed,” said Torres.
The DAV currently operates a shuttle service to transport veterans to VA hospitals in Durango and Farmington. The DAV is waiting to receive a new Ford van for its transport service.
Sanders explained the DAV and Ford have a long-standing partnership dating back to 1921. When the DAV was first formed in California, Henry Ford donated 15 Model Ts to help transport veterans. Today there are more than 1,900 local DAV chapters.
The DAV has also compiled a business directory that offers discounts to veterans on everything from accounting services, horseshoes and saddles, auto parts, women’s fashion, computer repairs, mechanics, home furnishings, jewelry, hearing aids, alcohol, hotels and restaurants and hair stylists. More than 100 local businesses offer discounts ranging from 10 to 40 percent off, Sanders said.
For more information about the DAV or to assist with the outreach center, call Darla Sanders at (970) 560-2793.