TINTON FALLS – After the gala ceremony for the cutting of the ribbon for the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community on Essex Rd Friday. The lunchtime ceremony was followed on Thursday evening by a formal event that officially opened the nationally renowned Soldier On organization.
The four-story, single-story community of veterans has a waiting list of around 100 other veterans in addition to providing permanent housing with 80 percent of units and accommodations already occupied, which will begin in December. It represents more than a decade of demanding work by a team of determined Americans, including Lilian G. Burry, the Monmouth County Commission, Gary Baldin, former President of Tinton Falls Council and former Tinton Falls Police Chief and Mayor Gerald Turning, for their more than a decade of engagement and collaboration with Soldier On and Winn Development, who have partnered with the nonprofit to provide shelter for the homeless and ex-homeless veterans. Each of the units qualify for a low income home building tax, with 18 restricted by a project-based Section 8 contract. Due to Soldier On and the concerted efforts of officials and volunteers in Monmouth County, the Gordon Mansfield Ward is one of the first in the country to offer rental housing to veterans with diverse incomes and means of potential property.
Bruce Buckley, CEO of Soldier ON, added his praise and thanks to Burry, Baldwin and Turning at the ceremony on Friday and joined the applause and praise from the approximately 100 attendees at the event.
The parish is named after the late Gordon H. Mansfield, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran who also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunities for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mansfield also served as Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs after a highly regarded military career that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, and the Presidential Unit Citation and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Each of the apartments is equipped with all kitchen appliances, a dining area, living room and bedroom, and an en suite bathroom with adequate closets and bathrooms large enough to accommodate any type of ambulatory transportation a veteran may need. Each is also furnished with a dining table and chairs, a large bed and mattress, a chest of drawers, a bedside table, a sofa, a coffee table and a TV console. All units are fully equipped with cookware, baking utensils, cutlery, bed linen, pillows, bedclothes, towels and cleaning products as well as all ancillary costs, cable and WIFI costs that are already included in the rent.
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The veterans will also have access to transportation to doctor appointments, employment, shopping, community events, and other resources, and some of the tenants have even taken advantage of community job opportunities, including van drivers and horticultural workers.
In addition, various consultations are offered for all residents on site, including credit advice, legal assistance for health representatives, powers of attorney or the signing of wills. There is even an area reserved for a crematorium, should veterans have their final resting place near the veterans with whom they have spent such important parts of their lives.
The extensive grounds include hiking trails and outdoor relaxation areas. On-site patios are equipped with gas grills.
The community also has a separate female wing for the female veterans who don’t want to blend in with a mixed environment. The unit has a balcony and additional common room, and all veterans have access to all amenities, outdoor areas and services.
Construction was below budget at $ 23 million in total and was completed within the time originally earmarked for housing on the 12-acre wooded area donated to Tinton Falls for the veteran community.
Congressman Chris Smith, who drove down from Washington DC early that morning to ensure his attendance at the ceremony despite nightly Congressional hearings, praised the collaborative efforts that made the long-standing dream a reality. Smith also praised the naming after Mansfield, whom he knew personally through his work with veterans and Smith’s congressional committee, and whom he personally admired for his dedication to the nation despite his own physical disabilities.
Rep. Serena DiMaso, State Senator Vin Gopal, District Commissioner Director John Arnone, and other district commissioners, along with Tinton Falls administrators and elected officials, also attended the ceremony. Gopal praised both Burry and Baldwin for their long-term efforts and determination to make a veteran complex a reality.
Work on the dream began when former Coast Guard Captain Donald Burry found out about the Soldier On concept and passed it on to his wife, Commissioner Burry, who also serves as the county representative to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA). Both Burrys thought Soldier On’s idea of providing shelter for veterans would be perfect for the former army facility.
Buckley called Burry the driving force, energy, and person who was always on the phone to make things happen from day one.
When plans to build the Fort Monmouth apartment building proved too difficult, Baldwin, Tinton Falls representative at FMERA, proposed the acreage for his community next to his own house in Seabrook Village and, with government approval, offered it to body for one dollar.
Gopal said he had been out of office in Trenton for 10 minutes when Burry called him for help and weekly calls to make sure he got the message and she could get money. Arnone named the project Project of the Year for the Monmouth County Planning Board.
A bronze statue of Burry, Baldwin, and Turning is in a permanent location on the site.
Applications for the studio-style one-room apartments are accepted by contacting us [email protected] or by phone at 888-413-9627. A leasing office that accepts appointments is located at 4070 Asbury Ave.
Commissioner Burry made remarks during the ceremony.
“Today we are taking a small but tangible step towards fulfilling our duty by giving those who have served courageously and sacrificed us all an opportunity for a better life,” said Burry. “I hope that something like this will soon no longer be a special occasion. To keep track of this day, I can only say two words – Soldier On. “