MONTROSE – Representatives from the Welcome Home Montrose Warrior Resource Center and members of the Montrose community are preparing to make their final presentations to the National Civic League, in hopes of being honored as an All-America City for the city’s continued work in helping military veterans.
The 64th All-America City awards will be held in Denver June 14-16. Montrose joins 20 other communities in this year's spotlight of honoring and helping veterans and military families.
The last time Montrose was a finalist was in 1990; it finished 11th out of 20, according to Welcome Home Montrose President Melanie Kline.
Kline said Montrose today is deserving of the honor, with its community-wide mission to help veterans integrate back into society.
The award would give Montrose national exposure and could, Kline hopes, lead to the WHM model being picked up by other communities.
"I'm so excited, because we're really anxious for what we’re building here,” Kline said, adding that the Welcome Home Montrose model “is working.” Montrose is the only city in the country, she added, to take on the reintegration of veterans into society “as a city mission."
Kline got word of this year's criteria in February; by March 1, she had formed a small committee to complete the city's application describing Montrose as a "No Barriers" community committed to welcoming veterans and to providing services for those veterans and their families to begin a new live in the area.
"The care for our veterans needs to come from the bottom up,” Kline said. “It can't just come from the top down from the government, because that paradigm just isn't working. They do what they can, and the best they can, but these veterans need to integrate back into their communities, back into their families, their jobs and only the communities can open their arms to do that."
Kline said 4,500 veterans in the area are now registered with Veterans Affairs, and that they pump about $20,000,000 in benefit dollars into their local economies each year. About 271 veterans are registered with the Warrior Resource Center's dog tag system, she said.
"All-America City awards recognize local action through community-based problem solving and civic engagement efforts involving the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The designation will give the winning communities "bragging rights" that can help them recruit new businesses, increase jobs and obtain grants for community betterment projects in the future," according to the NCL press release.
The award, according to the release is viewed as a kind of Nobel Prize for civic accomplishment; the NCL has given the award to 600 communities nationwide since its 1949 inception.
For more information, visit www.welcomehomemontrose.org.