Veterans want to build campus

CONYERS - Hundreds of aging area veterans may one day have a place they can all call home, if an idea put forth on April 18 by Newton-Rockdale Veterans Inc. comes to fruition.

At a special veterans appreciation dinner hosted by Conyers First United Methodist Church, Dr. Don Joiner announced that Newton-Rockdale Veterans would pursue the construction of a multi-acre central campus to house facilities offering independent living, assisted living, nursing home care and dementia care for veterans.

The campus would also include a library, medical offices and pharmacy, dining, security, a chapel, laundry, maintenance, social and recreational opportunities and meeting rooms.

According to the organization's statement of purpose, "there are more than 10,198 veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War living in Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties. ... In as much as most of these veterans now range in age from 60 to 90-plus, Newton-Rockdale Veterans Inc. believes that preserving and strengthening the welfare of these aging veterans who have served honorably, and promoting comradeship among them, can best be achieved by promoting and providing residential facilities specifically for veterans and their immediate dependents."

According to organization spokesman Michael Kline, committee members have set a goal of providing facilities to house a total of 500 veterans, as well as their spouses. Kline said estimates put an initial price tag of $35 million on the project.

While Newton-Rockdale Veterans, a nonprofit organization, has not yet obtained land nor funding for the project, members expressed optimism at finding a way to make the campus a reality.

"There are those who say this is a much too ambitious undertaking; those who say, 'You'll never get this project off the ground,'" Joiner said. "We understand there will be many obstacles and hurdles to be met along the way, but we are resolved to face and overcome them.

"N-R Veterans Inc. acknowledges the concept of a veterans retirement campus is a colossal undertaking, but it is fully committed and dedicated to achieving this goal as its highest priority, no matter what effort may be required."

While Joiner said that Newton-Rockdale Veterans would be "solely devoted" to building the campus, he added that "We wholeheartedly welcome the assistance of any national or state agency or veterans' service organizations - national, state or local - or any business or individual who desires to assist us in this endeavor."

As for possible locations for the facility, N-R Veterans agent Oma Parnell said the group is looking at property along Ga. Highway 212 in southern Rockdale and Newton counties, and possibly even into Jasper County.