WORCESTER – Veterans Inc. is hoping to use an expanded space and new federal funds to become a crown jewel in the veterans’ services community throughout the country.
Buoyed by a $3 million federal grant, announced Monday by U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Worcester, at a ceremony marking Veterans Inc’s taking full ownership of the old National Guard building on Salisbury Street, the organization aims to become a one-stop center for veterans’ services unmatched by any other in the nation.
“There will be nothing like this in America,” Vincent Perone, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and president of the organization, said.
Veterans Inc. is able to assemble grants from federal, state and municipal sources to really provide a "one-stop-shop for veterans' needs," he said.
"That will be here in this complex," Perone said.
Denis Leary, executive director of Veterans Inc. added, “We’re going to do so much with this building in the coming years. We’re going to provide so many resources to veterans that it will just be an amazing thing to see.”
Leary said that the group’s efforts were not “doing any favors to veterans. We’re actually paying them back.”
The leading private provider of veterans’ services in New England, based in Worcester, Veterans Inc. plans to use the new space and federal funds to improve its support of veterans and their families, especially the services aimed at preventing homelessness.
Veterans Inc. has been based in the building since its inception in 1990 and is now taking over the portion of the space that formerly housed the National Guard Museum.
“There will be nothing like this in America.”
McGovern said that his office had helped lobby the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to secure the $3 million, three year grant. He added that the funding was an important demonstration that the community supports those who have put their lives on the line in service.
“The money is not always there. The support is not always there,” he said, noting that so many in Congress are quick to proclaim that they support the troops. “Words are one thing but we need to make sure the money is there to support the services.”
He added, “The goal in this country ought to be to ensure that there is no veteran that is homeless. That every veteran gets the support they need.”
McGovern also said that he thought it fitting that the former armory would now be dedicated to meeting the needs of the nation’s veterans.
“I appreciate the history of this building, but let’s be honest. It was underutilized and there was a real need here,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to honor the national guard or our military services in general than to make sure that every piece of space that they occupied be used to help veterans.”
Former Mass. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who the organization credited for his work to secure the building, said that the expansion was a natural outgrowth of the state’s commitment to “be a leader in the country for services for our veterans.”
“This is, I think, just a manifestation of it,” said Murray, who is currently the president of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Massachusetts Rep. Harold Naughton, Jr., the chairman of the joint committee on public safety and homeland security, said that he feared the need for services provided by Veterans Inc will only increase as the country takes on a new military assault on the group calling itself the Islamic State, re-engaging in combat operations in Iraq and Syria.
“What a success today is in a local, state and federal initiative,” he said. “For new veterans, my colleagues from Iraq and Afghanistan and the veterans from previous wars, back through Vietnam and World War II, Vets. Inc. has always stepped up to really get the cutting edge in treatment services.”
He added, “Vets. Inc. has always tried to stay on top of the services, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, housing, job training.”