DALLAS — Gale’s Lodge will have its first two tenants soon, perhaps late this week.
The lodge, a transitional housing and employment program for veterans, just had to get its occupancy permit from the city of Dallas before officially opening.
Gale’s Lodge is a partnership between the Dallas United Methodist Church and Polk County. The church agreed to place the shelter on its property on LaCreole Drive in Dallas, and the county will operate the program.
Brent DeMoe, the director of the county Family & Community Outreach Program, said far many more organizations and businesses contributed to opening the first facility of its kind in Dallas.
“People just came and did things,” DeMoe said at Friday’s grand opening celebration for Gale’s Lodge. “There is nothing that we paid full price for, if we paid for it at all.”
Polk County agreed to buy the manufactured building and converted it into a home with seven bedrooms, a common area, laundry room, kitchenette and bathroom. The Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs gave the program a grant, which added to contributions from local veterans’ organizations and the United Way.
Dallas United Methodist Church Rev. Quinton Kimbrow said the effort is reflective of the lodge’s namesake, Gale Carruthers, a Dallas resident who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was an active volunteer after his service.
“He recognized and struggled with how life is unfair,” Kimbrow said. “Then he took action though his resources, his experience and his life, to engage others to improve individual and community life.”
Sheronne Blasi, statewide director for veterans’ services at the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, said the state has 300,000 veterans. She said some of them don’t receive the services they need.
“But what we see happening right now across the state is what we see happening here today. We see counties, communities, and partners stepping up to make a difference in the lives of veterans,” Blasi said. “It is such an honor to be here.”
Lodge tenants can stay for up to a year and applicants will be screened to make sure they have no violent criminal history. Veterans and employment services will meet with participants in offices provided by the church. Veterans in the program also have access to a day center at the church to look for and apply for jobs.
Once open, the lodge will house two veterans to begin with, but eventually grow to accepting six at a time.
“We’re excited about this because we think this is just the beginning,” said Commissioner Mike Ainsworth at Friday’s ceremony. “Sometimes it takes a while to start something.”
Paul Foltz, a U.S. Army veteran who served 21 years, is the lodge host. Foltz was completing work study in the Veterans Service Office when DeMoe asked him to consider being the lodge host.
“Being a deployed veteran, a combat veteran, it just felt like an opportunity to give back,” he said. “We are looking at people who need help, not people looking for a free ride.”
Foltz started his career in the Army as a diesel mechanic and was retrained as a topographic analyst making real-time maps for combat commanders for the last six years of service. He was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Leaving the Army felt like leaving family behind, he said. After retirement, he had to make an adjustment, which gives him something in common with those who will live at the lodge.
“Veterans like to talk, and they like to talk to each other. I can be one of those guys that helps them understand what they need to do to be successful,” he said. “It’s one of those things. If you’ve been there, you’re much more able to sympathize and understand.”
Foltz said the program gives struggling veterans an opportunity to turn their lives around.
“If we don’t have programs like this, then we have people who continue to struggle. I believe in hand-ups and not hand-outs. I think that is huge,” Foltz said. “If you are able to help someone succeed, they usually reciprocate that. They’ll continue to move forward with their life and invest in somebody else’s life. I think these programs are critical to the success of our society as a whole.”