Strengthening Veterans Community Through Renovation

Created: 03/27/2014 7:05 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A local veterans group in Austin is looking to foster a stronger veterans community by creating a better space for them to connect and interact.

And now the city is getting behind the plan.

VFW post #1216 in Austin was established at its current location in the early 1960s. It was last updated in 1973, and now VFW leaders say it's due for an upgrade.

"It's time,” said Warren Smith, a trustee for the VFW. “It's like an old house, you can't live in it for a hundred years without doing anything to it, you have to fix it up."

This week, VFW members voted to move forward with a remodeling project that will cost upwards of $100,000.

Austin's Main Street Project will cover most of the cost to improve the outside, but VFW leaders said they also plan to rehab the inside of the building to make it a more welcoming environment, particularly for younger veterans.

"By renovating it and cleaning it up, the younger members can bring their families down and use our club,” said Scott Wiechmann, the post’s commander. “It's an enjoyable place to come in fellowship."

Officials said by attracting more young veterans, they hope to bridge the age gap and create a stronger veterans community overall.

"I'm a younger veteran but I still talk with a lot of the older veterans, and I met a lot of them here,” said Spc. Clayton Tuttle, the post’s junior vice-commander. “My younger veterans who don't really know where to go when they get home, I can bring them down here and they can feel like they belong."

The Austin Port Authority still needs to finalize the funding, but VFW leaders said the improved community space would help not only veterans, but the city as a whole.

"Let's get this new building, let's fix it up inside, let's work in the community, and let's help veterans,” Wiechmann said. “And that's what we're trying to accomplish here and we're moving forward in that direction."