Veterans’ Services moves to G’port with help of private fund

HUDSON–The Columbia County Veterans’ Services Department is hoping to move its administrative offices in September from the center of Hudson to Fairview Avenue in Greenport, where it already is preparing a day room for veterans and their families.

The department’s executive director, Gary Flaherty, recounted August 16 that events leading up to the move began last year, when the department received a grant from the PFC Dwyer Fund, which helps people transition from military to civilian life. Columbia County’s share of the fund has included a $100,000 lump sum to start programs plus on-going quarterly booster grants, which for 2019-20 will be $25,000 each quarter.

With this award, the Veterans’ Services Department rented space at 389 Fairview Avenue, between the new Shoprite and the Walmart-Lowes complex, (on the west–Shoprite–side), for a recreation room, where veterans and their families can unwind. The military calls such spaces “day rooms.” Since signing the contract for it about two months ago, the Department has been preparing it. Mr. Flaherty said he found a pool table, which is “something impossible to get anymore,” and plans to buy it for the room.

About six weeks ago Mr. Flaherty says he found out that the County Board of Elections “needs to expand its space” in the County building at 401 State Street, Hudson. Mr. Flaherty agreed to make room for the Board of Elections by moving out of 401 State Street when he learned he could move into office space above the day room at 389 Fairview.

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors authorized the lease of that space for the Veterans Services Office for $1,700 a month, from the Fairview Commercial Building, LLC, at its full board meeting August 14. Two days later Mr. Flaherty said, “I just got the contract. It’s as of September 1. So we’ll move around then.” The move will be “just a one- or two-day operation.”

Mr. Flaherty called the Fairview Avenue location “really a nice set-up,” but he still has his eyes open for space for another project: a military museum, for which he has relics from the Civil War through more recent periods.

Additional opportunities are opening for veterans and their families, Mr. Flaherty reported. These include an offer by the Board of Directors of the Martin Van Buren home to open the site to them for free, as well as tent camping for them on the site of an old Girl Scout camp on Route 203.

In addition, he has contacted the High and Mighty Horse Farm in Ghent about animal therapy for veterans and their families.

“The Dwyer Fund is turning into a good thing for our veterans,” he said.

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