Non-profit to turn former Shiawassee Co. school building into home for veterans

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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY (WJRT) - (05/11/16) - The Durand Area School District has agreed to sell the former Wilbur Bills Elementary in Bancroft to the non-profit 'Welcome Home Veterans'.

The group wants to turn the building, which closed in 2011, into a home for veterans of all ages- specifically homeless veterans.

"We've been looking for the right site and the right home where they can get the counseling they need, the support services they need (and) basic shelter," said Kimberly Bowen, president of 'Welcome Home Veterans'.

Brenda December's children went to the school in the 90's. She wants to see something flourish at the site.

"I think it would be a good thing to utilize the building," December said. "I know a lot of guys that have come back from Iraq and they're just struggling. I feel bad for them."

Bowen said when veterans don't get the help they need it has a ripple affect.

"It's not just affecting just the veteran it's affecting their family which there of course affects the community," Bowen said.

Mary Jo Moore, executive director with 'Welcome Home Veterans', knows first-hand.

"I'm a retired Navy veteran. I served for 24 years," Moore said. "Statistics are saying that 22 veterans a day commit suicide which is way too many. One person who commits suicide is one too many."

In Michigan, 5,600 veterans are homeless.

By restoring this building 'Welcome Home Veterans' hopes to rebuild lives.

"The mind, the spirit (and) the body," Bowen said. Counseling, educational and health services will be offered. Connecting veterans with the benefits they deserve is also a focus. Bowen said the group is and will continue working with county, state and federal veterans affairs agencies and organizations to make this project successful.

The school building will be sold for $50,000. Bowen said the veterans home likely won't be operational until summer of 2018. She said a significant renovation of the building will be required.

'Welcome Home Veterans' has a golfing fundraiser planned for June 25th in Chesaning.

For more information on the project or golfing event call 989-723-3807.
In the 'related links' section on this page you'll find a link to the non-profit's website.

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