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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Top Stories > General

Returning veterans may soon have a place ‘to land' in Liberty

Oct 21, 2014

By Dan Hust - staff writer

Dan Hust | Democrat
Pastor Norman Graves, left, and Anthony Covington of New Beginnings Community Worship Center are working on opening up 15 Dixon Avenue in Liberty (seen behind them) as a transitional home for veterans, possibly the first of its kind in Sullivan County. Despite being more than a century old, the house remains well-maintained.
LIBERTY — Plans for a first-of-its-kind veterans transitional home earned the Village of Liberty Planning Board's approval Thursday evening.
While the funds aren't fully in place yet, Pastor Norman Graves and Anthony Covington - both former Daytop staffers and both with the New Beginnings Community Worship Center in Liberty - are moving ahead confidently.
“The Lord gave me a vision [in 2008], and our board has adopted that vision,” Pastor Graves explained after Thursday's meeting.
Called Begin Again Transition Services (BATS), the nonprofit venture aims to turn a former residence at 15 Dixon Avenue in Liberty into a six-bed facility to aid returning veterans in transitioning back to society.
“It's definitely a need,” said Sullivan County Veterans Service Agency Director John Crotty, who plans to assist BATS. “.
.. We deal with 6-10 people a year who are just living in basements, on somebody's sofa, or sleeping in their car.”
In addition to the county, Graves and Covington are seeking advice, assistance and/or cooperation from the Veterans Administration, Soldier On (a group committed to ending veteran homelessness), Action Toward Independence, BOCES, SUNY Sullivan and government representatives (they've already spoken with a supportive Congressman Chris Gibson, himself a veteran).
But a key partner will be the general public, from whom they'll soon be asking donations and support.
“Next year will be a major fundraising year,” confirmed Graves.
Covington, vice-chair of the church's board, said a formal dinner and silent auction are planned in April, but even now they're working on funding to complete the purchase of the Dixon Avenue location, across the street from Covington's home and a significant part of the estimated $100,000 needed to get BATS up and running.
The current owners - Nancy Greenberg Pithis and Ronald Greenberg, the children of the former residents - are “150 percent behind us,” said Graves.
“The notion of our family home taking on a new purpose as a home for veterans is exciting for several reasons,” the owners wrote in a letter to neighbors this summer. “Our family has a strong connection to the military as well as a history in the field of human service.”
Their father Jack was a World War II Army veteran, while mom Arline served patients and families as a longtime social worker at the Middletown Psychiatric Center.
Church members and their children helped with a yard sale to clear out the Greenbergs' former house earlier this year, so Graves and Covington have had a chance to thoroughly look through its 2,800 square feet - and are eager to open it to veterans in need.
“Hopefully, by the grace of God, it will be next year,” Covington said.
Thursday's granting of a special use permit from the Village of Liberty was a major step forward, though BATS will have to return to the planning board in a year's time to assess progress and make refinements, if necessary.
But already Graves and Covington are being lauded for putting words into action.
“I never served in the armed forces. That's an honor I missed, but I tell you, I am all for veterans,” remarked Planning Board member Malek Rabadi during the meeting. “I am so happy, so glad, you're doing something for veterans!”
“They seem to really have a lot of energy,” agreed Crotty in a subsequent interview with the Democrat. “It seems like they have a workable vision.”
Tax-deductible donations are being gratefully accepted and should be made out to New Beginnings Community Worship Center, 18 Long Drive, Liberty, NY 12754. On the memo line, mark the check's use as being for “BATS.”

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