August 7, 2017

Veterans, Inc. soliciting $6M to renovate 91-bed facility

Grant Welker
Veterans Inc. President and CEO Vincent Perrone and Erin Stelmach, the agency's events and communications coordinator, in a upper-floor space slated to be used for offices.

Veterans Inc., a Worcester nonprofit that serves as many as 1,000 veteran families each year, will embark on a fundraising and planning effort to overhaul a facility that's long overdue for a renovation.

The long brick building at the corner of Salisbury and Grove streets just north of downtown was a National Guard facility for years before Veterans Inc. took over. When it finally did after years of legal and legislative hurdles, volunteer labor covered renovations but nothing to bring the building up to date.

Now, Vincent Perrone, the agency's president and CEO, said it's long past time for Veterans Inc. to have better facilities for the veterans it serves. A plan estimated to cost $5.5 million to $6 million would retrofit unused or storage space for offices at the Salisbury Street side of the building, opening up space in the rear of the building for housing. Today, the facility's 91 beds are almost all in compactly arranged bunks.

Veterans Inc. plans to start a capital campaign committee in September and is looking for members to take part.

It was a long time just for Veterans Inc. to get the building for itself. The facility opened in 1992, a year after the organization was incorporated, but it wasn't until 2013 when Veterans Inc. was able to buy the building from the state for $1. For years, it worked with the state to obtain a long enough lease to obtain public grants to create dorms, to no avail.

With a deed to the 96,000-square-foot building, Veterans Inc. is prepared for a long-awaited overhaul.

"Everything we've done is on a shoestring budget," said Perrone, an Air Force veteran and the president since 1993.

Veterans Inc. has grown to include services in all six New England states, including career services, financial management and food pantries. The Worcester facility requires its clients to perform community service as a way to give back for the help they receive.

"We don't help you," Perrone said. "We help you help yourself."

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