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New digs in Denton for program that digs up assistance for veterans

Veterans in Denton County now have a one-stop spot for finding assistance and programs that can prove to be beneficial.

The Veteran Community Navigator Program, a partnership between United Way of Denton County and Denton County Veterans Coalition, sends social workers to help connect an estimated 46,000 veterans with rent assistance, therapy programs and more. It now operates out of the new Denton County Veterans Center at 400 S. Carroll Blvd.

The dedicated brick-and-mortar center was funded entirely by seven private donors and Veracity Research Co., an investigation firm that recently moved to Denton from its longtime Argyle location. Case managers previously met with veterans and their families at homes, public places and in limited quarters at United Way’s location before the crew at Veracity spent three weeks renovating the space.

Several state and local agencies attended the center’s ribbon-cutting Wednesday afternoon. U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, joined them and praised the community for fully supporting the navigator program without federal funds, especially in a time when the nation needs to rely on its military more than ever, he said.

“Several now go into the military knowing how dangerous or important their missions will be,” Burgess said. “The danger has not lessened. The need to respond to these dangers has never been higher than today. We have to focus on what we can do for [veterans] in return.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, applauds as a member of United Way speaks during Wednesday's grand opening of the new Denton County Veterans Center in Denton.DRC/Tomas Gonzalez
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, applauds as a member of United Way speaks during Wednesday's grand opening of the new Denton County Veterans Center in Denton.
DRC/Tomas Gonzalez

The project began in August thanks to a $175,000 grant from the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance. The grant stipulated the navigator program must work at least 200 cases within a year of receiving the money.

Since the project’s start, United Way and the Denton County Veterans Coalition has worked 167 cases and is on track toward 350 within the next four months.

“Our programs will grow over time thanks to this established location,” said Chris Martin, president of the Denton County Veterans Coalition. “I think this will raise awareness to the program, and it provides a more friendly, established place to meet.”

Martin said the space provides a better environment for case managers to personally connect with veterans and their families and opens the door for bolstered support in addition to what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can offer.

Inside, 10 local agencies that offer veterans a suite of services can personally tailor a strategy and approach in improving  each veteran’s lifestyle. Case managers at the grand opening said this down-to-earth approach allows for effective, integrative care and prevents veterans from being “bounced around.”

“Here, we recognize that the VA is not always the option,” Martin said. “We can augment what the VA does to further support veterans.”

The Denton County Veterans Coalition estimates the veteran population in the county will grow to about 50,000 by 2020.  A longevity plan beyond grant funds has been laid out to continually meet the needs of veterans in North Texas.

Alex Reed, community impact director for United Way, acknowledged there's no guarantee the navigator program will land the annual grant another time. A focus on communal support has been redoubled for that reason, and a plan to maintain a presence in Denton County has been laid out for the foreseeable future.

"This is a safe place for us to be an accessible front for those in need," Reed said. "With the integrated services here, we want to have a collective impact for the community."

For more information, visit www.unitedwaydenton.org/veterans or contact Reed at alex@unitedwaydenton.org.

MATT PAYNE can be reached at 940-566-6845.

Featured image: Local officials cut the ribbon during Wednesday's grand opening of the new Denton County Veterans Center in Denton.
DRC/Tomas Gonzalez