DAV center goes public: Tri-county group reaches out to veterans and others
MENOMONIE -- A major mission of the national Disabled American Veterans is to assist injured vets, but Chapter 26 members want to go farther as they lay plans to help their communities.
Fifteen months ago Tri-County Chapter 26 -- which serves Pierce, St. Croix and Dunn counties -- bought the former Windmill Sports building north of Menomonie. Along with the building -- which DAV members renovated into a lounge, bars, meeting room and banquet hall -- the 12-acre site holds a golf driving range, picnic shelter and miniature golf course.
Recently Chapter 26 members have asked the Pierce, St. Croix and Dunn county boards for $10,000 grants to help cover the cost of building a commercial-size kitchen at the center.
"We have a jewel in Tri-County," said Commander Roger Chelberg. "There's not another center in the country that's like this."
"It has to do with veterans, but I feel it has to do with the community as a whole," he said. While the center offers veterans a chance to talk with people who know what they've been through, the hope is that it will also assist other community causes.
"Originally we wanted to raise money for Company A's homecoming," said Chelberg of the chapter's plans for a large party to welcome solders back from Iraq.
Web site photos chronicle the work that went into transforming the sports center into a banquet hall that seats 400-500 people.
The 6,400-square ft. hall is now booked months ahead for weddings and other parties. The center is open to the public from 3 p.m. until midnight daily. Meals are served every Thursday evening. The driving range and miniature golf area are open seven days a week during the summer.
The chapter bought its facility for $750,000 and is making payments on the land contract. Donations, including $10,000 in seed money from member Roger Waite, covered the down payment. Regular income and fundraising cover the payments, but money is needed to create a restaurant-type kitchen.
While DAV members -- who include licensed electricians, plumbers and carpenters -- are volunteering the labor, the chapter still needs about $40,000 for upgrades that include installing a commercial-grade exhaust system.
Currently food for wedding parties and Thursday suppers is prepared by caterers who deliver it to the center. Installing the kitchen will greatly improve the center's usability and its income, say members.
A dishwasher and ovens have been donated, but contributions are needed to buy other equipment and materials.
As for most of the labor, DAV members say they've got that covered.
"We don't even have to ask. They just show up," said Chelberg of how easy it has been to find volunteers to renovate the center.
"It's just a sense of camaraderie," agreed Miland.
That, they say, is what the center is all about.
While it will offer programs on post-traumatic stress disorder and referrals for counseling, sometimes what a soldier needs most is to spend time with someone who has had the same experiences and survived.
"They have a chance to release their stories to guys who know what it's about," summarized Chelberg.
For more information about Tri-County Chapter 26, go to: www.davwi26.com.