Dedication set for house for veterans

Posted: October 1, 2013

The Winchester Star

John Lewandowski (seated), founder of the Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing based in Frederick County, signs papers for a house donated by Rick Lee of Strasburg. His family is pictured on the left.

Winchester — The Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing will be one step closer to providing a safe haven for veterans Saturday with a house dedication ceremony in Strasburg.

The ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. at a home donated to the organization to be used for short-term housing for veterans in need, said John Lewandowski, founder of the organization headquarted in Frederick County, which operates to help local veterans throughout the region.

The event is free and open to the public.

“For years, I have been wanting to bring a veterans community center or village into the Northern Shenandoah Valley,” he said.

The dedication ceremony will include speeches by organizers and visiting dignitaries, he said. After the dedication, remodeling on the home at 358 S. Masssanutten St. will begin.

A 3,000-square-foot circa 1912 Victorian house sitting on 2.5 acres of land is the site of the home, which will hopefully be fully renovated and ready for operation in summer 2014, he said.

The house will be capable of admitting six veterans, and in some cases their families, for a four-month stay while they get back on their feet, Lewandowski said.

They will receive free rent, access to medical and dental care, and help with career planning, he said. “We will do whatever is needed to help these veterans get back into life as a civilian and aid them in getting stability in their lives.”

An admitting committee will process the referrals and choose the which veterans will stay in the house, including homeless or disabled veterans or ones having a hard time, he said.

The house was donated by Rick Lee of Strasburg and originally belonged to an aunt and uncle who both served in the military, Lewandowski said.

Gary Lockridge of Lockridge Enterprises in Winchester is the contractor for the project, which will at least partially be paid for using $13,000 in gift cards donated by Home Depot as part of its Celebration of Service program, Lewandowski said.

Funding for the project will come through working with the Harrington Family Trust, he said.

J. Logan Harrington, a disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, said the trust will be used both for direct funding and to help partner with other organizations to raise money to renovate and run the house.

Projected renovation costs of the house and the budget it will take to run it are still being worked out, he said. “We don’t have a pilot program running. We won’t have a budget until that happens.”

Harrington of Reston said he went through his own struggles as a veteran and has seen too many others who were “shoved to the curb.”

That is what makes the Veterans Center Disabled Veterans wants to create so important, he said.

“They are looking to provide housing for veterans who are less fortunate and don’t have access to housing for themselves and their families. I am a very big supporter of that,” said Harrington.

In addition to donations, skilled workman, such as plumbers, electricians, and other professionals will be needed for the stages of renovation. Later in the process, unskilled workers will be needed for projects, such as cleaning and painting.

Information

A dedication ceremony of the Veterans Center, 358 S. Masssanutten St., Strasburg, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. It is free and open to the public. For more information or to volunteer, contact Lewandowski at 540-877-1252 or dvch123@gmail.com.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com