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Local veteran center asks for donations to help support services

Since 2015, Discovering Soldiers Potential II has provided a one-stop center for veterans and their families.  

Now, in the midst of the pandemic and while helping hundreds of local veterans, the organization is asking for community help. Founder and CEO Sandra Brownlee created WayPoint Veteran Service Center under DSPII to serve veterans and their families, providing them access and transition services in one local location.

“There’s a lot of things young adults learn in their formative years about social security, buying a house, paying bills and things like that that active duty military personnel don’t learn about,” Brownlee said. “They are focused on one thing, and that’s protecting our country. There’s nowhere to really go to answer those questions when they are getting out of the military or for even older veterans, so we created WayPoint centers.”

WayPoint has seen an increase in the volume of calls in the past year.  They have also experienced an influx of families needing support for housing, food, medical care, and even car repairs.

“When you come home, the assumption is that there’ll be someone to pick up the slack where the active duty is left off,” Brownlee said. “Veterans often don’t know where to turn and that’s where they come in.”

This past year, WayPoint assisted over 600 veterans in LaGrange. 

“We didn’t shut our doors because of COVID-19,” Brownlee said. “Our dedication is to the soldiers and the veterans. We are something that veterans can’t get in the community but can get here at WayPoint. We are all veterans here and so we know what they need.” 

Services include workforce and employment assistance; mental health counseling; health care referrals to qualified and vetted professionals; assistance with VA benefits forms and enrollment; information on education institutions including higher education colleges, technical and trade schools; legal aid clinics; housing opportunities; and a clearinghouse for community resources and updates from community based organizations that serve veterans.

Recently, WayPoint was offered the old state patrol office on Hamilton Road, which will allow more space to fill veteran needs. 

Currently, Waypoint is located in the CAFI building on Lafayette Parkway. 

“We’re trying to raise money so that we can get that building repaired in order for us to be able to service veterans out of it,” Brownlee said. “Any funding will allow us to not only transition them and allow them to have a place to stay but will also assist them with having those services right at hands reach.” 

Brownlee said they have secured a donor to do a $50,000 match for the funding they raise. 

“If we match that, we will get that building, the roof done and get the inside started,” Brownlee said. “Our vision is to eradicate veteran homelessness.  If we believe and continue to work together for collective impact, we can protect and empower these military heroes when they return home.”

The LaGrange WayPoint Veteran Center is open Tuesday – Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  A donate button is available on the website. WayPoint also takes cash or check drop offs or by mail at 1380 Lafayette Street. 

“Remember, every dollar counts,” Brownlee said. “Our pledge is to never charge a fee for assisting a veteran or their family. We believe that they deserve the privilege of our service in exchange for their faithful military service to this great nation.”