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State approves $25,000 for local veterans’ group

Staff Writer

Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County received word last Wednesday, July 9, that Colorado’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs approved a grant in the amount of $25,000 for the organization to use toward “the provision of emergency housing and shelter” for local veterans.

“You don’t know how excited we are,” Roy Melius, board member of the local group, told The SUN, adding later, “to receive (this grant) — it’s huge.”

In addition to focusing on expanding the availability of veterans’ health care in the area, making sure Archuleta County’s vets have a home is one of the organization’s top priorities. Now, the county’s veterans will have until June 15 of next year to put the grant monies to good use.

For a small veterans’ organization like that in Archuleta County to receive a grant from the military department is rare and almost unheard of, informed Melius, who added that usually grants of this nature are given to much larger and, often, national organizations.

“We’re a county organization,” Melius said, “but we’ve made it very strong … the whole group is strong (and) we all work together.”

The funding from the state is meant to offer assistance to veterans who are experiencing difficulty paying rent or making payments in regards to their housing needs. Currently, Veterans for Veterans has a contract with Pagosa’s Quality Resort, which allows veterans to stay at the hotel for a few days while in transition and while looking for housing.

The organization has also set up eight apartments within the county to be made available specifically to veterans. With this new grant from the state, the organization hopes to offer even more living assistance to veterans in need.

In addition to helping with housing needs, Veterans for Veterans offers a variety of other services to vets and their families. One new addition to the county is a recently hired marriage and readjustment counselor, specifically for military personnel and their relations.

The organization has also consistently advocated for better health care services for vets living in Archuleta County, receiving a positive response from Pagosa Springs Medical Center.

“We pushed for three years, and now with our hospital, our vets don’t have to go all the way to Albuquerque or Farmington for colonoscopies,”Melius explained, adding that veterans in Archuleta County now have access to medical treatment that not even Durango veterans have.

To learn more about the services offered to veterans in Archuleta County, including housing assistance, veterans are urged to attend the organization’s meetings each Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Quality Resort, 3505 U.S. 160. More information can also be obtained by calling 799-8387 or going online to vets4vetspsco.org.

Melius said that there are usually between 40 and 70 people in attendance at each meeting, and when a veteran is in need of a service, they just “fill in the (proper) application and we’ll take care of them.”

Melius ended by reflecting again on the $25,000 the organization now has to help local veterans, “I’m beyond myself,” he said, “I’m just beyond myself.”

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on July 17, 2014.