Welcome Home Place a labor of love — and respect

When Bill Andresen processed out of the service in 1968, nobody talked to him about resources and services available to veterans. He wants to make sure other veterans, younger veterans, new veterans as well as old veterans, know what’s available.

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That’s why he volunteered to help open Welcome Home Place, a veterans resource center hosting its kickoff event Saturday, July 28, from 9 a.m. to noon. Welcome Home Place will be housed at the E2E Center at Holyoke Community College, 79 Main St., Ware, and will be open the fourth Saturday of each month.

Ronald Rucki also is eager to match up veterans with the services, benefits and resources they need — “where to go to get financial help, further educational benefits, medical benefits and speakers such as Veterans Agents and others who offer useful information.”

Rucki, 71, of Ware, and Andresen, 75, of Thorndike, are volunteers in The Brookfield Institute’s Vets Helping Vets group, which came up with the idea for Welcome Home Place and have organized the programs and resources that will be available. Each month will feature a guest host, a veteran’s agent and a presentation. At the July 28 kickoff, the guest host will be Sammy, a service dog who serves Iraq War veteran Gabe Nutter. The Ware Veteran’s Agent (VOC), Mark Avis, will attend. And there will be a presentation about fuel assistance programs available to veterans.

“I am most looking forward to making sure these service people get whatever help they need to get all the information they require to return to a productive and active life in their community,” Rucki said. “I hope they feel that their service and sacrifices are appreciated.”

Andresen says he wasn’t looking for a handout after his service and he doesn’t think many other veterans are either, but he does know they like to chat, visit and reminisce and that’s one of the aspects of Welcome Home Place he’s looking forward to.

“The drop-in center will provide a welcome place for active duty military, National Guard and veterans to mingle and share stories and feelings with folks who have walked in their shoes,” he said. “The center will provide them with physical, mental, financial, housing, transportation and educational needs, too. Veterans want to be appreciated for the sacrifices they made keeping this country free.”

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Andresen, who spent 2 1/2 years in Germany in the mid-‘60s and another three years in the Massachusetts National Guard in the early ‘80s, joined the Galaxy Council at Westover ARB more than 20 years ago. “After years of support to the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard on the base, I knew I wanted to keep giving back,” he said. “There is a brotherhood and sisterhood that creates a bond through age, race, color and social status. I want to help them in any way I can.”

Welcome Home Place holds its kickoff event July 28 from 9 a.m. to noon at the E2E Center, 79 Main St., Ware, and will be open the fourth Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon. The Brookfield Institute’s Care for the Troops program has a mission to prevent veteran suicide and bring increased well-being to veterans and their families through education and training. Through our outreach, veterans, the families and communities develop the skills and tools to build resilience. Learn more at http://www.careforthetroops-ma.org.