Editorial | Vets center expansion advancing

01/25/2014 12:00 AM

01/24/2014 2:08 PM

The Veterans Welcome Home & Resource Center in Little River is on the threshold of starting a re-integration house for military veterans readjusting to civilian life. The center’s founder and volunteer director, Kris “Turtle’’ Tourtellotte, says a brick home on Highway 57 will be the center’s new headquarters as well as the re-integration house.

“We put an offer in, they accepted it and most of the paperwork is done. We’re down to little things’’ before closing. The four-bedroom house is situated on more than an acre zoned residential/commercial/agriculture. The size of the property allows “room to build another facility in the future,’’ perhaps with 20 or 30 beds.

The house will be remodeled to accommodate eight veterans or six and a family while the veteran is actively looking for a job or in any program, such as college or technical school. The re-integration program is similar, but much smaller, than one Tourtellotte helped start in Rochester, N.Y.

The plan had been to purchase a home next to the center on Stella Court, in a neighborhood one block off of U.S. 17 in Little River. Fundraising had collected $50,000 but purchase of that property had complications. “Just before Christmas, I went to a real estate agent and said, `find me a house’,’’ Tourtellotte recalls.

Shortly, the veterans center board negotiated for the Highway 57 property, the owner accepted an offer of $75,000 and a bank approved a loan. The center has mortgage payments of $370 a month, a considerable reduction from the $675 monthly rent for the Stella Court house. Even with more operating costs for utilities and so forth, Tourtellotte thinks operating costs at the new location will be no greater than current expenses. The center will remain on Stella Court until the end of March.

The center has a commitment from Home Depot Foundation for renovation to create offices and a conference area. “The living room is so big we can divide it and have a bigger conference room than we have now.’’ There is also space for offices in the attached garage.

“It’s amazing how many people have volunteered to help,’’ he says. The Hilton in Myrtle Beach is donating new furniture, still in boxes, and 100 gallons of paint. He has offers from electricians and heating / air conditioning technicians and plans a series of work Saturdays -- as was done at the North Strand Housing Shelter when it started in a building on S.C. 9 in Longs.

Tourtellotte alludes to the housing shelter’s second building planned this year. Both nonprofits have filled community needs by having huge support from a variety of churches, civic organizations such as Lions and Rotary and in the case of the Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War posts throughout the area.

Now the veterans center can expand services that will help military men and women return to civilian life. It’s surely gratifying to see the continued high level of community support.

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