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America Supports You: Construction Starts on Rehab Center

By Sharon Foster
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2008 – Construction began last week in Gardner, Mass., on an $8 million live-in rehabilitation center for wounded warriors.

The Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center will be built on the main campus of Mount Wachusett Community College.

The facility will include 10 duplex housing units and a rehabilitation center to serve veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder or disfiguring burns.

Veteran Homestead, a nonprofit organization providing housing, hospice care, rehabilitation and counseling services to veterans, funded the project through grants and private donations.

“One of the reasons that this facility is needed is that there are many veterans in rural areas with no access to services,” said Leslie Lightfoot, the organization’s chief executive officer and founder.

Lightfoot said the facility will incorporate individual and family counseling, education, rehabilitation and job-placement assistance.

In August, the Massachusetts legislature approved a bill allowing Mount Wachusett Community College to lease 10 acres on its 269-acre campus to Veteran Homestead to build the center.

Veterans and their families will have free access to the college’s academic programs as well as use of campus amenities, including the fitness center, swimming pool and theater. In lieu of payment for the lease, Veteran Homestead is providing the college with internship opportunities for students enrolled in nursing and allied health programs. The 30-year lease includes options for two 10-year extensions.

Janice O’Connor, director of public relations for Mount Wachusett Community College, said she considers the center a model because “it combines an academic component while being located on a college campus.”

Officials expect the center to be completed by January 2010.

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