December 19, 2014

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Together in Valor

Dan Gillotti and Sam Felton explain the purpose of the future Valor Home in Lorain to volunteers on Thursday, CT Photo/Kristin Bauer

Dan Gillotti and Sam Felton explain the purpose of the future Valor Home in Lorain to volunteers on Thursday,
CT Photo/Kristin Bauer

LORAIN — Never volunteer for anything.That military adage was disobeyed Thursday by about 25 Quicken Loans employees who helped build Valor Home, a transitional home for homeless veterans.

Marc Pecatrice, a Quicken mortgage banker, said he appreciates veterans, including those who’ve sacrificed their lives.

“I’m not out there sacrificing my life,” Pecatrice said as fellow workers tore up old carpeting in the basement of 221 W. 21st St. where the home will be. “So I figure I can do something to help them.”

Quicken volunteers aim for 1,000 hours of community work annually, according to Jason Scalese, a Quicken regional vice president. He said workers volunteer for community service instead of their normal duties and are paid for the time.

The work came with Valor Home scheduled to open in October. The 30-bed, two-floor home will have a 7,000-square-foot second-floor dormitory, according to Dan Gillotti, Valor Home Lorain County Executive Committee vice chairman.

The first floor will have 5,000 square feet for offices for the project manager, case managers, therapists and a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs representative. The basement will have 3,500 square feet for a laundry room, meeting room and storage area.

A $474,000 federal taxpayer grant from the VA, including $24,000 for a van for disabled veterans is paying for 65 percent of the project, Gillotti said. As part of the matching grant, private donations must cover the remainder of the cost with sweat equity also qualifying as payment. About $110,000 of the $250,000 goal has been raised.

Some donors withdrew their money pledges over concern that the original site for the home, the aging, leaky St. Joseph Community Center, might close. Gillotti said some donors returned money after Mercy Regional Medical Center donated a portion of their building at Reid Avenue across from St. Joe’s. A Mercy infectious diseases clinic will continue to operate in the building.

Gillotti — a 70-year-old former Army 1st sergeant and Vietnam War combat veteran — said Valor Home will be highly regimented because many homeless veterans are alcoholics, drug addicts, mentally ill or a combination of both.

Gillotti, a chairman of the St. Joseph Homeless Shelter advisory board, said 30-day drug treatment programs don’t work, so incoming veterans at Valor Home will undergo a 12-week addiction remission program, which includes random drug testing, individual and group counseling, community service and art, exercise and music therapy.

While positive drug tests won’t automatically evict residents, Gillotti said participants, who can stay up to two years, have to be committed to change.

“If the folks are expecting they’re just going to waltz in here, come and go as they want to, do whatever they please, it’s not that kind of a program,” he said. “This is a life-changing opportunity.”

The home is for men, but Gillotti said the committee will work to open a home for homeless women veterans in the future.
“We have not forgotten our female veterans,” he said.

Gillotti and Sam Felton, Valor Home committee chairman, told volunteers they were grateful for their help. Felton, a 63-year-old ex-Marine and highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran, said he spent nearly 11 months in a transitional program in Brecksville in the early 1980s. He said programs like Valor Home are vital to veterans, particularly combat veterans. Some have been psychologically traumatized by war.

“Each and every one of you, just by volunteering and doing what you can is going to help,” he told volunteers. “We hope all of you come back when it opens and can say, ‘I had a hand in that.’ ”
Contact Evan Goodenow

at 329-7129
or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.