The Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative met Friday over a St. Patrick’s Day lunch to announce that their new Veterans Center will be located at the American Legion in Newhall.
Anticipated to open by the end of April, the 180 person capacity center will be a hub for veterans to gather to receive services and spend time together.
According to Elliott Wolfe, organizer for the collaborative, the center will connect veterans with counseling, legal assistance, housing, education, transportation, medical and dental services. There will also be televisions, refreshments, a pool table, a bar and internet access for leisure at the center, which will be open from 12 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“They’ll be able to come there for one stop shopping,” Wolfe said. “It’s a place for veterans to gather. They don’t have a place where they can gather to tell war stories.”
Currently, many of the services offered to veterans in the Santa Clarita Valley are issued through College of the Canyons. Wolfe said this new center will provide other veterans with similar connections, whether or not they are students.
There are upwards of 13,000 veterans in the valley, 800 to 1,000 of which attend COC. Murray Wood, Chief Development Officer of COC, said he anticipates this new center will be beneficial for students who are veterans.
“We want to help our students,” Wood said. “It’s for veterans, run by veterans. That’s very important. The college has a very strong and abiding interest in helping veterans.”
Judy Wolfe, wife of Elliott, said the center will provide care, support and security that is suitable for veteran culture. She said veterans can often be hesitant to ask for assistance, so this means of service encourages veterans to accept help from people with similar life experiences.
“That’s what’s most helpful, is veterans helping veterans,” she said. “If someone needs help, they’ll feel comfortable enough to get it.”
Staff members from Rep. Steve Knight’s office attended the meeting to discuss ways in which Knight could lend his assistance to veterans.
“It’s really good to see how this community is coming together to support veterans,” District Representative Joshua Rivers said.
Christine Ward, a Knight staff member, said Los Angeles County will be sending a veterans service officer to the Santa Clarita Valley once a month. With Knight’s help in Congress, veterans will be able to get services faster as the congressman can track and expedite veterans’ claims, Ward said.
“We want them to get the services they need so they can live a healthy and productive life,” Ward said. “We’re willing to work with all of you.”
Patricia Manzano, a specialist for Mental Health America of Los Angeles’ Military Resource Center, said meeting with other people who serve veterans provided a strong networking opportunity.
“This particular meeting serves as a good starting point to build relationships within the community so that we can bring further resources to our veterans,” Manzano said.
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