Welcome news on vets home

Although veterans will be the primary beneficiaries of the multimillion-dollar “renewal” targeted for the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home over approximately the next decade, Blair County as a whole also will reap great benefits from the upgraded facility.

Here’s the way that a front-page article in Sunday’s Mirror described what’s ahead for the home, which has been in operation at the site of the former Hollidaysburg State Hospital since 1977:

“The project will bring the home up to current standards, transform it from institutional to home-like, create living arrangements that are more private, infrastructure that is more practical, operations that are more streamlined.”

“We want to upgrade into the 21st century” is the way that Sam Dunkle, deputy commandant, reflected on the multi-faceted endeavor, for which neither a projected total cost nor a timetable for completion have yet been finalized.

However, the project is getting underway with big financial commitments from the state and federal governments, both of which, by their generosity, are acknowledging the home’s importance not only for now but for the long-term future.

The home has come a long way since its early days four decades ago, when many of the first veterans to live there weren’t enthusiastic initially about what the home offered. It’s not incorrect to say that some of them were very pessimistic, based on their comments not long after the home began operations.

But it didn’t take an inordinate amount of time for the home to overcome its “growing pains,” and the home has continued to be an important asset for veterans over the years, as well as the area economy.

Based on what’s planned, the home seems destined for a long-term future, most importantly for the veterans who will be served by it.

But the benefits that Blair County reaps from the upgraded facility will be envied by many other places.

That doesn’t imply that the benefits that this county currently receives from the home are not significant.

They’re very significant.

But consider:

The more inviting, upgraded facility will be more attractive for veterans seeking services that the home will continue to provide, as well as perhaps expanded opportunities.

Meanwhile, the home will continue to be a stable source of employment for the hundreds of men and women who will continue to be needed to carry out the home’s day-to-day operations. Money that they earn will benefit merchants and many other segments of the area economy.

Money earned by contractors and their employees will similarly benefit the local economy.

At the same time, the home will be a significant purchaser of food and other products for the day-to-day needs of its residents.

Relatives and friends coming to the county to visit residents will patronize restaurants and other services, buy gasoline and possibly visit tourist sites such as the Horseshoe Curve and Fort Roberdeau.

Some might even decide to attend an Altoona Curve baseball game.

As the construction-renovation project moves along, it will be important for state and federal lawmakers from this region to keep watch regarding progress and additional needs that might surface — and “go to bat” for the project whenever necessary.

The veterans home is on the threshold of an exciting new beginning that should solidify its local presence for many decades to come.

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