Military veterans, especially those making the transition from active duty to civilian life, now have a new place to go for help in Leon Co. After a grand opening on Wednesday, the Veterans Resource Center brings services that used to be spread out over several offices together under one roof, in a more intimate and approachable setting.
Inside the Historic Amtrak Station on Railroad Avenue, the center has computers for exploring available benefits. Twice a month, counselors from WORKFORCE plus will be on hand to guide veterans toward jobs and education opportunities. And once a month, they’ll hold job skills workshops.
Jan Carey directs Leon County Veteran Services. She says the center consolidates services that used to be spread out among several offices, which makes getting help simpler for the veterans. “Instead of going here and then driving over to WORKFORCE plus and, sort of, starting the process all over again, we’re making it easier," she says. "And sometimes we have veterans who have a hard time going because some of their service-connected disabilities.”
At Wednesday’s grand opening ceremony, veteran Tina Owens said she’s already been taking advantage of the services offered here. After serving for five years, she left the Navy in December before moving to Tallahassee. “I’ve been working with a counselor here, Mr. Ben Broadwell. He’s been helping me with my military benefits and with my education with TCC," she says. "And I just want to say that I’m happy that we finally have a facility that the veterans can come and get employment and get education benefits.”
Army vet Wilson Barnes served in Vietnam and has lived in Leon Co. for more than a decade. He says he’s thankful for the center because it shows the county’s attitude toward veterans. “It’s part of a national commitment to ensuring that our veterans are received in an honorable and appropriate manner going forward, and that we’ll never repeat what happened to our Vietnam vets coming back," he said.
And Leon Co. Board of Commissioners Chairman Akin Akinyemi said the center had been one of his top three priorities when he was elected. “To be able to have this one-stop shop where every veteran, old or new, can come here to get a job, to find out about medical information or housing, anything that you need, it really, really, pleases my heart to be able to do that," he says.
The Veterans Resource Center is funded entirely by Leon County, at a start-up cost of $15,000.