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New veterans services offered in refurbished garage in Spokane

Former County Commissioner Mark Richard and retired Air Force Col. Brian Newberry unveil a wooden Vets Garage sign, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, at the grand opening at 1102 W. College in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle)
Former County Commissioner Mark Richard and retired Air Force Col. Brian Newberry unveil a wooden Vets Garage sign, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, at the grand opening at 1102 W. College in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle)

The newest local facility offering support to veterans is called the Vets Garage, but you won’t find any cars inside.

This garage, across from the Spokane County Regional Health District building, was unveiled to the public during a grand opening Saturday. It’s more like a woodworker’s heaven, with tools for cutting, carving and sanding. Wood of various shapes and sizes are stacked against the wall and the odor of fresh sawdust hangs in the air.

Tucked inside a small, white building on the corner of College Avenue and Madison Street, the garage is run by the Spokane County Veterans Services office and the State of Washington Post Traumatic Stress Program. It offers classes in computers, design, woodworking and wellness in addition to providing help with PTSD counseling. The goal is to create a one-stop-shop to assist veterans in succeeding in civilian life.

“We’re trying to bring as many services into one locale,” said Garage director Dr. Dennis Pollack.

The Vets Garage used to be in a building on Sprague Avenue and recently moved to its new location, said board member and veteran Dwayne Thurman. “It’s just a great opportunity for veterans to come and use their skills,” he said.

So far veterans have been making wooden chairs and signs as well as other custom products to sell. “It’s their relaxation, their therapy,” Thurman said.

Air Force Veteran Jennifer Cardonick sells doll clothes, toys and other items through her business, Paulianne’s Creative Crochet. The veterans at the Garage have built boxes that help her display her creations. “They’re perfect,” she said of the boxes.

Cardonick said she heard about the Vets Garage when she visited the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, which assists homeless veterans.

Pamela Johnson also heard about the Garage through her counselor from the HUD’s veterans’ program. Her husband is a Marine and Air Force veteran, but Johnson said she is the one who has gravitated toward the woodworking.

“I liked coming down here and having something to do,” she said.

She showed off a chair that she had made and said she also took the computer class offered at the Garage.

“I know how to change a hard drive on a computer,” she said.

Former Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard helped bring the Vets Garage to life.

“Our veterans suffering from PTSD come from all ages, all backgrounds,” he said.

The facility is all about providing fellowship as well as developing new skills or translating old skills into a civilian application, he said.

“That’s what’s happening in this small but mighty building,” Richard said.

The goal is to outgrow the building and be able to serve more veterans, Richard said.

Retired Air Force Col. Brian Newberry, a former wing commander at Fairchild Air Force Base, came to the grand opening to support the effort. Helping veterans is more important now after years of war overseas than ever before, he said, and education is a big part of that.

“Who doesn’t love a garage?” Newberry said. “I tell you, that’s a great name.”


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