Community plans welcome for VA residents

Plans to make residents of the new Veterans Administration Home welcome in Enterprise are already underway.

The multitude of opportunities available were outlined at the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs breakfast meeting Jan. 22.

Enterprise was selected Jan. 3 by the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs to be the site of the state’s fifth veterans home, which is expected to be open for business in 2023.

Military Affairs Committee Chairman Bill Baker was a member of the Enterprise team that produced and presented the winning-proposal.

Not everyone was happy after the Jan. 3 ADVA announcement that Enterprise was selected from an original field of 12 proposals that was narrowed to three, he told the capacity crowd attending the breakfast meeting at the Enterprise Farmers Market. “One of the emails I got said, ‘Enterprise spent a lot of money and veterans lost.’

“Let me tell you this,” Baker said. “Anytime you are willing to invest in the veteran’s community here in the Wiregrass, veterans do not lose, veterans win.

“Being in Enterprise is a win for veterans because we have great organizations here that are going to support this home,” he said as he distributed a list of volunteer opportunities available to civic groups, churches and veterans organizations.

“I went to (the VA home in) Pell City and spent three hours talking to the director there,” Baker said. “I

asked how we can prepare for the veterans home residents coming and she gave me a laundry list for any organization, any church that wants to be involved.

“If you want to be a volunteer in the home, first you need to register with the home and pass a background check,” Baker said. “That’s the first thing.”

The list included a reading program, donation of DVDs or books to the home’s library. “Having somebody go and just sit and read to the veterans is a big thing in Pell City,” he said. “Donations of jigsaw puzzles are also appreciated.

“There are 15 Christmas trees at the Pell City VA home,” Baker said. “Different organizations throughout the city volunteer to go and put those Christmas trees up.”

Baker said it is not too early for clubs or churches to plan a “Christmas in July” event to start collecting ornaments for the home’s Christmas trees.

Fishing trips, donating tickets for local concerts or ball games, donation of artwork, helping fund a shuffleboard court, transporting veterans to Veteran Service Organization meetings and providing birdfeed for bird feeders are among the possible volunteer opportunities available to community members.

Baker said that in Pell City, the halls on the VA home were “adopted” by civic organizations. “One of the nicest thing I saw in the Pell City VA home is that this is not a sterile environment, this is a home,” Baker said. “A lot of veterans are in the home and their families are a good distance away.

“This is a small list and as you take it back to your organizations I know you will double and triple this list,” he added. “Some of the veteran organizations in this area have started planning how they can help.

So get with someone, they are going to appreciate what you do.”

Baker said he was impressed with the library the Pell City home had compiled. “They like to update it a lot so the same things aren’t there all the time,” he said.

“Some veterans can no longer read but they still enjoy reading,” Baker said. “Having somebody come in and sit and read to the veterans is one of the big programs in Pell City.

“For any organization, any church, that wants to be involved in this home, you can be involved in this home,” Baker said. “I know this city and I know most of the people in these clubs and I know they are going to be involved.”

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