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WEDC grant will create community for veterans

June 24, 2022
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City’s oldest building will be transformed into veterans housing, community space

EDGERTON, WI. JUNE 24, 2022 – The city’s oldest building will be restored and turned into six transitional apartments geared toward veterans – particularly women veterans and those with children – with the help of a $250,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

“This project really is about the power of community,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “The city, nonprofit Edgerton Community Outreach and area veterans’ groups have come together to offer supportive housing and services for veterans, give veterans organizations a home base and open up new space for seniors and others in Rock County.”

The $250,000 Community Development Investment grant will go toward renovating what city officials believe is the oldest building in Edgerton – 210 W. Fulton St. Originally built in 1854 as a hotel known as the Taylor House or the American House, the building has housed everything from a bowling alley to a grocery store. In recent years, the building has mostly been vacant and has fallen into disrepair.

Edgerton Community Outreach (ECO), a nonprofit social services agency, will lead the renovations and provide services to the residents and groups using the space. Plans call for creating a large community room that will give the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post and other veterans’ groups a place to meet, a commercial kitchen that will help ECO with its hunger relief programs and six housing units targeted toward women veterans and vets with families, said Ray Oswald, an ECO board member.

The new community room will also allow ECO to begin serving more senior citizens – offering the space for senior programming and community use when it’s not needed by veterans’ groups, Oswald said.

ECO already runs six transitional housing units in the city with a goal of helping residents find financial stability and the needed social services to transition to independent living, Oswald said. The group provides financial literacy, job training and connections to other agencies for residents.

While Rock County does have a veterans’ shelter, it is unable to house women or children, Oswald said. This effort will help fill that gap.

“Here’s a building that has served Edgerton for 150 years and it’s getting a new life just like our vets who have served are country and are now getting new lives,” Oswald said.

The project cost is nearly $2.1 million and ECO is still fundraising to cover the roughly $600,000 still remaining.

The city of Edgerton sold ECO the building for $1 and has awarded a $400,000 tax increment financing grant for the project, city administrator Ramona Flanigan said.

The building is in the heart of Edgerton’s downtown and has been underused for years, Flanigan said. Without the WEDC funding, the city would not be able to afford to renovate and restore the prominent site, Flanigan said.

But even before construction begins, Flanigan said the project has been a rallying point for Edgerton and the surrounding area.

“There’s no way the city could have done this alone,” Flanigan said. “The combination of all of this – with the city, veterans’ organizations and Edgerton Community Outreach, which is so respected in the community, there’s so much energy.”

On Saturday, Edgerton will host a major fundraiser for the project Hike for Heroes with a community block party along Fulton Street to welcome active duty, reserve and retired veterans as they complete their parts of a 24.6 mile hike from Beloit to downtown Edgerton.

The hike is being led by Fred Falk, retired Lt. Colonel in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and the Post Adjutant for Edgerton’s VFW. The VFW donated $100,000 to start the effort to create a home for area veterans’ groups and provide housing for veterans in need.

Still, Falk and his fellow veterans wanted to do more. That’s when he came up with the idea to raise money by hiking in his military gear. All the military walkers will wear boots and backpacks that can weigh up to about 80 pounds as they complete 10-mile sections of the walk.

At 73, Falk will walk the last four miles.

“Veterans want to continue to serve, to be relevant,” he said.

And his VFW post and area veterans plan to continue serving the community and the future residents of this building by offering social gatherings such as fishing expeditions, trips to sporting events and more. Mostly, though, they plan to listen.

“Military service is really transformative,” he said. “Veterans are a lot more comfortable talking to other veterans.”

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