The SS American Memorial opened just two years ago and has since seen more than 7,000 veteran visitors.
Each day, more veterans and volunteers, as well as community members, show up to the Lazy U Ranch, located at 450 Naumann Rd, wanting to use the grounds, founder Craig Russell said.
“We’ve had 17 events this month,” he said. “Literally, every day there is somebody here, somebody with a story.”
Over time, the center has seen programs that benefit wounded veterans begin, grow and even take on a life of their own, Russell said.
“We’ve got the full-time kayak and fishing program,” he said. “We have full-time volunteers that come out and do that. We have physical fitness day with full-time volunteers. Not to mention all of the retreats that happen out there on a regular basis. These guys, for the most part, are retired.”
Soon, the memorial will host Sunday services, Russell said.
“We’re going to be starting Freedom Chapel in October,” he said. “A recently retired chaplain has been out there and wants to plant his church. It will be every second Sunday of the month.”
Russell first opened his doors in 2010 to help give wounded warriors a place to go.
During that time, the Lazy U Ranch evolved into something more than Russell originally hand in mind.
As more people showed up, Russell decided to construct a place for the veterans to get out of the heat.
But once the donations started coming, they didn’t stop.
“We built the Memorial, which wasn’t originally planned to be a memorial, but because of the all of the donations it just turned out that way,” he said.
Not too long ago, the Memorial expanded into a foundation and is now a registered nonprofit organization, with the property available for anyone to use.
“We don’t charge anything for anybody to use the facilities. I don’t care if it is military or private,” he said. “They can use the grounds or facilities for free. It is not just about veterans, it is for all Americans. All they have to do is leave it like they find it. You have to set it up and take it down and clean up all of your trash.”
Russell and his family moved from the property, and which will soon donate it to the foundation.
“There is a huge master plan for the whole development for veterans services,” he said.
Now that the SS Memorial has expanded, Russell said there are some operating costs to help keep it running.
Court Street Coffee Shop owner Mary Jo Langford and local musician Del David of Klassic Kountry Gold.
“She is the first person to approach me, saying she wants to fundraise for us,” Russell said. “It is a good feeling knowing the community is wanting to raise money for (the Memorial). We have received donations from community members and businesses, but this is the first fundraiser.”
Langford said the idea came while talking with David… >> read full article and see more pictures here >>
Originally posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017 12:00 am
By:Valerie Bustamante firstname.lastname@example.org