New facility to serve vets in six northcentral Wisconsin counties
Tens of thousands of veterans across northcentral Wisconsin will be served by a new post in Merrill.
A 14,376-square-foot facility, to be named Northwoods Veterans Post, will provide a convenient location for continued service and support opportunities for veterans and their families in northcentral Wisconsin.
The new roughly $2 million facility, to be built on Johnson Street near the Merrill Memorial Park Cemetery, was made possible by a land grant — 4.3 acres — from Church Mutual Insurance Company.
“This has such great meaning for many veterans. For most, it will give them a place to call home,” said Paul Russell, chairman of the Northwoods Veterans Support Group, the Merrill-based organization that is spearheading the project.
The facility will be available for training events, meetings, social/sports and, most importantly, bringing veteran affairs services to the building.
Church Mutual President and CEO, Rich Poirier, a military man himself, was more than pleased to help the veterans’ group in its mission to serve others. In fact, Poirier and the company he leads make it their mission to help others protect the greater good.
“There is no group more deserving than veterans, who have selflessly served their country,” said Poirier, who retired from the U.S. Navy in 2010 at the rank of captain.
Northcentral Wisconsin serves more than 21,000 veterans in six northcentral Wisconsin counties — Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Price, Taylor and Vilas, who are underserved by existing facilities, according to the Northwoods Veterans Support Group. The new handicap-accessible facility will better serve the needs of aging veterans, as well as a younger generation of veterans. There were more than 21,000 veterans in the six northcentral Wisconsin counties as of September 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The new post, which is expected to open in the spring of 2018, includes conference rooms and offices; medical rooms; a banquet area; computer lab; fitness room; a children’s activity room; and an outdoor patio. It also will serve local scouting organizations — Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.
Russell, who retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel after 31 years of service, says Church Mutual’s land contribution was a major breakthrough for this effort.
“For me, when Rich Poirier put it on the table, this dream became a sense of reality,” he said. “We felt confident about fundraising (for the building materials), but considered the land a great obstacle.”
Construction of the post is expected to begin in the summer of 2017.
A region-wide fundraising campaign for the new post kicked off on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, during a special event in Merrill announcing the new veterans’ post. Log on to NorthwoodsVeteransPost.org to contribute.