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Members of the Polk Community Veteran Collaboration meet for the first time at Dallas United Methodist Church on Feb. 26.

Itemizer-Observer

POLK COUNTY — Veterans will be the focus of a new collaborative program through Polk County’s Family and Community Outreach Program.

Modeled after service integration teams set up to serve each community, the Polk Community Veteran’s Collaboration brings together resources, organizations and agencies from the state, county and local level to assist veterans in need.

Representatives of the groups will meet regularly to talk about issues facing veterans in their individual programs to see if more help can be found. It met for the first time on Feb. 26 in Dallas.

“The purpose of this meeting is to bring organizations, service groups and the general public together to start working more cohesively on veteran issues and projects in Polk County,” said Brent DeMoe, director of Family and Community Outreach.

DeMoe said the goal is to work together to combine resources and increase awareness of what other groups working with veterans are doing in the area. Representatives from Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, Western Oregon University’s veteran service office, the city of Dallas, Polk Community Development Corporation, county departments and other veterans’ organizations were part of the first meeting.

The group has $10,000, provided by donations, to get started assisting veterans, and meets at Dallas United Methodist Church, which also is home to Gale’s Lodge, a shelter for veterans.

At the Feb. 26 meeting, Stacey Jochimsen, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, spoke about the work the senator’s office is doing on behalf of veterans and asked the group to tell her about issues veterans are facing. She said the senator has been working on legislation to make urgent care access, housing and medical billing issues easier for veterans.

“Seeing community efforts like this is the best part of my job,” she said. “It gives me a lot of peace to know that people like you guys are doing stuff at the ground level and really care.”

Others said that efforts to launch a group like the collaboration was needed, but failed, in the past.

“I just wanted to let you know how proud I am. In 2008, I did the first homeless count in Falls City, and from there this all began to evolve,” said Dallas resident Wayne Crowder, a longtime advocate for fellow veterans. “To see a table this large and the resources that in 12 years have come to life is just amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of Polk County than I am now.”

For more information about the group, call 503-623-9664, ext. 2118 go to www.co.polk.or.us/fco.

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