FEMA grant helps funding for new Johnston County Veteran Center

TISHOMINGO, Okla. (KXII) - The Johnston County Veterans Association broke ground on a new veterans center in August 2017 after raising money for several years to replace the old veteran center that burned down in 2008.

However, Wanda Gray with INCA RSVP in Tishomingo, a volunteering organization for seniors, said there still was not enough money to begin.

"We thought we had the funds secured to go ahead and build the building but the prices had went up tremendously since the initial blueprints were done," Gray said. "So we fell a little short on the funding in that area."

The price for the building is estimated at around $2 million.

In 2017, the organization had only $600,000 raised on its way to the believed $1 million goal.

However, the plans for the center would end up paying for themselves.

The bottom floor of the two-story, 10,000 sq. ft. building will double as a storm shelter, able to hold 400 people.

Because of the storm shelter, the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the project a $1 million grant this month.

That is exciting news for veterans like Garret Beardmore, who served in the Navy, helping with underwater mine detection in the Persian Gulf.

"It definitely could be beneficial for new or returning vets who don't know where to go or how reach out to other veterans, other than people that they already know," Beardmore said. "But it will give them a place to interact with others, trade stories, just sit back and talk to like-minded people."

The Johnston County Veterans Association will be responsible for raising about $300,000, but FEMA will cover three times that amount.

"And that $300,000 can be through cash, through in-kind, donated hours, donated material, things of that nature," Gray said.

Gray said this grant got the ball rolling.

Bids are going out to contractors and construction is expected to begin next month.

The grant says the building must be complete by August 2021 but Gray hopes it is done before then.

Anyone interested in donating time, money or materials for the veteran center can contact Wanda Gray with INCA-RSVP at 580-371-2352 or at
www.incacaa.org/rsvp .