MALONE — A veterans retreat center, located in the Lake Titus area, received a helping hand from community members on Wednesday morning, with donations coming from Vet Fest and the LaVigne family.

The Sgt. Carlton A. Clark Veterans Center is currently being developed off Route 30, at a 105-acre site near Lake Titus.

“It will be a site worthy of the sacrifices veterans have made,” said Mark Moeller, chair of Homeward Bound Adirondacks’ board of directors. “It will be a site that will outlast us all.”

According to Moeller, the check from Vet Fest, totaling $8,800, will go to help with the mortgage payments on the property.

“We will finally own the property, and we can do retreats here year-round in a facility directly suited to our purpose,” Moeller said. “We are getting donations from hundreds of VFWs, American Legions and Amvets. Folks are helping out here.”

Adirondack Vet Fest, an annual summer event to raise public awareness about mental health issues and challenges facing veterans, organized a fundraiser to benefit the veterans retreat center.

“We look forward to next year’s event, getting the word out on veterans issues, and recognizing veterans is so important, we have a lot of them in our community,” Moeller said. “We are here to assist them, we tell that to our American Legions, if there’s a veteran, widow, or a spouse who needs help, get them over to us, we can make things happen. We want to take care of our veterans. It starts in our hometowns.”

The LaVigne family donated the flagpole at the retreat center in honor of the 17 members of their family who have served in the nation’s armed forces, with a memorial garden to be added to the area around the flagpole, according to Moeller.

“The money here will help with the garden portion of it,” Moeller said, adding Kirk LaVigne donated an additional $5,000 on Wednesday to go toward a memorial garden. “We were very thrilled they put up the flagpole, and we are equally thrilled today to accept this to help with the memorial garden, which is part of the entrance to this facility.”

The garden will also feature a memorial wall made up of bricks that can be purchased with the names of loved ones displayed on them, according to Moeller.

Veteran Retreats

Moeller described the weekend retreats offered at the site as having a positive impact on veterans and their families.

“The positive nature that these veterans end up with, even after just a short weekend, that’s what we want to build upon and have the ability to offer up here.” Moeller said.

Moeller said the new retreat center is being built in phases in an effort to make the costs manageable.

“Our engineer’s estimate is it’s going to be about $1.3 million,” Moeller said. “That’s going to build a 2,400-square-foot lodge, but first of all, in back of that, the first building is going to be a utility building. It’s going to house three components, a bathhouse for men and women, and it’s going to get the water from the well we dug this year. It has to be purified through the mechanical room in the utility building. The third part of the building is going to be a maintenance area.”

After the utility building is completed, the next effort will be building four cabins, according to Moeller.

“They’re going to be insulated and heated. They will have three bedrooms, two beds each,” Moeller said. “We did all these things to be as efficient as we could with the dollars that we have to make this an Adirondack setting. This whole aspect of being in nature is great. That will happen in phases over the course of a couple years.”

Moeller said the organization will put out a request for bids for the utility building in January.

“I want it to be known that we are so appreciative of the Malone community. They have really come out to support us in what we are doing, financially, and the veterans organizations have been a big help,” Moeller said. “We appreciate all that, and Vet Fest’s contributions are great. The Malone community has really embraced us.”

According to Moeller, the late Frank Dorchak, a U.S. Navy veteran who lived in Malone, was a Homeward Bound board member who helped to find the location of the new retreat center.

“We looked at this one and thought, ‘Wow, it fits all of our needs,” Moeller said.

According to Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, work is being done to finalize a State and Municipal facilities program grant totaling $250,000 to go toward work at the site.

“We couldn’t do this without the help of New York state,” Moeller said. “This all goes toward fighting veteran suicide, to help veterans who are dealing with PTSD, and our retreats here are for that.”

Moeller thanked Franklin County and the Malone town board for working to bring the retreat center to the community.

“We are thrilled to be here in this beautiful setting,” Moeller said. “We are close to Titus Mountain, we have miles of cross country ski trails on our own site right here, we definitely have four seasons of recreation.”

Donald Dabiew, D-Bombay, chair of the county Legislature, said he was thankful for the work of all the volunteer groups at the day’s ceremony.

“We really do appreciate it,” Dabiew said. “This is going to be a great site.”

Based in Saranac Lake, Homeward Bound Adirondacks offers healing retreats for veterans and their families at no cost. The organization has been serving veterans for 12 years, also offering transportation to medical and mental health appointments, crisis outreach and referral services.

“This is going to be a nice, tranquil spot, and from here we can go all around the Adirondacks to go paddling, hiking, and fishing,” Moeller said. “The work really is veteran to veteran. The veterans leading this will talk about their own experiences with PTSD and depression, how they are coping with them, to try and give some ideas to the other vets.”

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