Closed since 2010 while undergoing a seismic retrofitting and other needed upgrades, the historic Spanish colonial revival building at 842 Front Street will resume services to veterans of the United States Armed Forces — as well as their families and survivors — in January, said Veterans Services Officer Christopher Lopez.
“I'm hoping to have everything (in place) by the first of the year,” Lopez said. “We're excited to be back here.”
With the funding provided by a $2.4 million bond approved by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, the building was reinforced to withstand earthquakes, refurbished with new plumbing, electrical, and heating systems, and made safer with the removal of all lead-based paints and asbestos.
Since the downtown building has been closed, Lopez said, the county's 12,000-plus veterans have been serviced at the county's facility on Emeline Street.
The vets building was originally built with $55,000 in bond funds in the early 1930s to provide a centralized point of access to veterans' services in the wake of the First World War. It was originally dedicated on Armistice Day — now known as Veterans Day, 1932
Since then, veterans have been able to use the building to seek access to health benefits, housing assistance, and job counseling among other services.
“Our primary focus here is to bring our one-stop service from Emeline to the Veterans Memorial Building,” said Tony Heaney, president of the building's board of trustees, a panel of eight veterans charged with running the business end of the facility's operation.
Heaney said that work is already underway to move everything back into the downtown facility in time to begin operations in January.
He said that office space is provided for all types of veterans' services organizations in the newly refurbished facility, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“Our purpose is veterans' affairs,” Heaney said. “We want to get the community involved.”
The ceremony marked a homecoming of sorts for Boulder Creek resident Arnold Leff, post commander of the VFW Bill Motto Post 5888.
“We've been meeting in this building for decades,” he said. “This is our headquarters.”
For more information about the Veterans Memorial Hall, visit www.vetshall.org
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