Young veteran-aimed charity in Colorado Springs sees rapid growth
If the first year at the Mount Carmel Center of Excellence was a slow start, the second could be a wild ride.
The veteran-aimed nonprofit and its partners have helped nearly 1,000 veterans a month since it opened its doors last year. The rapid rise in veterans who rely on the center's one-stop shopping model for help programs has already triggered an expansion.
"We are so excited about it," said the charity's boss, Bob McLaughlin.
The center, at 530 Communications Circle off South 8th Street, is a hub for the community's efforts to help troops and veterans. It brings together more than three dozen government agencies and nonprofit partners to cover almost any need a veteran or their family could bring.
"It's what happens when a family comes together," McLaughlin explained.
At Mount Carmel, veterans can get help with issues including job skills, financial woes, war-caused mental illness, government benefits, housing, health and yoga.
"Veterans can seek what they need and find it here," McLaughlin said.
Soon, even more help will be available.
The center is remodeling a neighboring building that will hold health and wellness programs.
The goal is to increase the amount of on-site counseling available and to pair that with programs aimed at physical health.
The expansion, like the main Mount Carmel building, comes thanks to the financial backing of auto dealer Jay Cimino.
Cimino, who also underwrote the Mount Carmel Center in Trinidad that is aimed at community health, envisions the Colorado Springs site as a haven for veterans around Colorado.
"He realizes you have to invest to get success," McLaughlin said. "He's got a big heart."
With the buildings secured, the center is tracking down cash to pay for its operations - about $1.2 million per year.
Most of that operating cash comes from grants offered by the government and charitable foundations.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and local military bases are leaning on Mount Carmel to help with troops who are transitioning out of the service.
McLaughin said the government has realized the role that nonprofits can play in helping veterans.
"The real key to success is in public/private partnerships," he said.
He's hoping one partnership with the state of Colorado can continue to grow in 2017. The center is pushing for $320,000 in the state budget to support a program that lines veterans up with jobs.
The General Assembly is considering whether to continue the grant, which pairs the center with the Pikes Peak Workforce center.
Mclaughlin is also optimistic that the federal government will expand its grant programs aimed at veterans.
"If you look at what the new administration says, they want to help veterans," he said.
With its first year in the books, Mclaughlin said Mount Carmel is looking at continued growth.
"If you look at the numbers in the first year, we have done a lot of good things for veterans and their families," he said.
And at Mount Carmel, taking care of veterans is about more than a few good deeds, he said.
"What we have is a pretty serious business," he said of the center's clients. "We're taking ownership of their well-being."