Veterans coalition, CASA get new shared home | PostIndependent.com

Veterans coalition, CASA get new shared home

A pair of good causes in Garfield County is getting a new home in downtown Glenwood Springs.

On Monday the Garfield County Commissioners approved leases for the Western Slope Veterans Coalition, the county veterans official and CASA of the Ninth, which will all share a space at 110 Eighth St., right across from the Garfield County Courthouse. These three organizations were granted leases for $1 each.

The Western Slope Veterans Coalition serves veterans, members of the military and their families in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties.

John Pettit, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, said he founded the coalition along with other local veterans after a pair of veteran suicides about four years ago. Pettit said they are trying to create a safe space for veterans and their families to go and to create a one-stop resource center to connect veterans with the benefits they've earned.

The veterans center's official name is the Jesse Beckius-Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center.

John Beckius, a veteran himself, spoke to commissioners Monday, his words broken by tears, and told of his son Jesse. Jesse Beckius was a Marine veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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"He came home from Afghanistan," the father said, struggling to finish. "Diagnosed with PTSD, took his own life.

"If he had some help, maybe he would … I just want to thank you for what you're doing for the vets," John Beckius said.

This is the first time that the veteran's coalition will have its own space. Pettit had been looking for a suitable space over recent years. Then, out of the blue, Garfield County staff got ahold of him to offer his organization the space at 110 Eighth.

Greg Bak, the county's veterans service officer, was also granted a $1 lease for the building space. Bak, a Navy veteran, was named the Garfield County veterans officer at the beginning of the year, and he is a liaison between veterans and the federal government concerning health care, disability compensation and other benefits. His office will also provide counseling through a Grand Junction psychologist who will visit the veterans center weekly, he told commissioners.

"I'm happy to see the last unit in this building being put to good use," said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. "This board in particular really appreciates what the veterans have done for our nation and the sacrifice that's taken place. Thank you for that."

The county is also covering the taxes on that space, so that expense is not passed along to these organizations, according to Commissioner John Martin.

"What it amounts to is it's our responsibility to take care of veterans, as well," Martin said. "They are part of the community. And they need a little bit of extra help every now and then, and they get it from us."

CASA of the Ninth, court-appointed special advocates who work with abused and neglected children in the 9th Judicial District, had also been without an office for much of this year.

Christy Doyon, who recently became CASA's new executive director, said this new space should prove to be an ideal location, with its proximity to the courthouse. She expects the space will help CASA with family team meetings, volunteer training and supervision meetings.

"We're so appreciative that the county is helping us, and the kids in our community, through this space," said Doyon.

Mary Rippy, who is on the CASA staff, said the organization covers 7,000 square miles, and CASAs drive all over the 9th Judicial District to serve "these kids who don't have a voice in our courts." Without the CASAs the child's voice is somewhat absent from the court proceedings, she said. "This central location is really going to make our work more seamless and more effective."

The Western Slope Veterans Coalition is planning a grand opening at the new building on Nov. 10, coinciding with the Marine Corps' birthday, when CASA of the Ninth will also have an open house.

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