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Posted January 10, 2017 | 11:25 AM

Groundbreaking Launches Veterans Resource Center

First phase of project helps connect Veterans, active-duty military personnel, with services

Call it a field of dreams.

On Monday, Dec. 5, local veterans and Hillsborough County officials will gather in a tranquil field at Veterans Memorial Park & Museum to break ground for a long-awaited Veterans Resource Center. The public is invited to attend the 2 p.m. ceremony at the park, 3602 U.S. 301 N. in Tampa.

The 8,000-square-foot Veterans Resource Center will be the new home for the County's Consumer & Veterans Services, and include a multi-purpose room for uses such as training and special events. Construction is scheduled to be completed in summer 2017. The $1.8 million project is funded with $300,000 in County Capital Improvement Program funds and a $1.5 million grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The Veterans Resource Center will offer a one-stop shop for services for local Veterans, who number about 93,000 in Hillsborough County - the second-highest total in the state, according to Consumer & Veterans Services.

A subsequent phase of construction, for which fundraising is underway, entails a 14,000- to 16,000-square-foot museum. Tom Aderhold, president of the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum Committee, envisions a lively presentation of military artifacts and memorabilia, and, ultimately, an operation that connects active-duty servicemen and servicewomen, Veterans, and military families with the wealth of defense-industry resources throughout Florida.

Veterans Services assists all veterans, their dependents, and survivors in accessing federal, state, and local benefits. The department is a single point of contact for military members and their families seeking assistance from outside agencies, and there is never a fee to receive services or visit with a Veterans Service Officer. Staff also provides outreach and support to veterans in assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, private residences, and private businesses.

The Veterans Resource Center is a fitting addition to Veterans Memorial Park & Museum. Beneath moss-draped oak trees, visitors can walk along graceful paths that connect striking memorials and tributes to wars fought and local soldiers fallen. Volunteers from local Veterans' organizations have partnered with the County to help develop a master plan for the park, raise donations for the memorials, and provide volunteers at the museum.