Iowa City gets new Veteran’s Center

Larry+Dingman%2C+74%2C+who+is+a+veteran+of+the+U.S.+Army%2C+talks+with+a+reporter+during+an+interview+about+the+grand+opening+of+the+Veterans+Liberty+Center+in+Iowa+City+on+Sunday%2C+Oct.+25%2C+2015.+The+center+is+scheduled+to+open+on+Nov.+11%2C+2015.

Larry Dingman, 74, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army, talks with a reporter during an interview about the grand opening of the Veterans Liberty Center in Iowa City on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. The center is scheduled to open on Nov. 11, 2015.

By KayLynn Harris

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A new spot for veterans in the area is going strong a month into its opening.

The Veterans Liberty Center opened its doors last month in Iowa City. Various donors, retired Army veteran Larry Dingman, and a group of volunteers, were able to start the center in hopes of helping local veterans.

The space for the center, 2116 S. Riverside Drive, was donated anonymously with one year of rent covered. Local citizens and businesses donated other supplies, such as furniture and exercise equipment.

Now, the center serves on average about 30 people a day. Dingman, the president of the center, said his main goal is to help. The center can help figure out finances, employment issues, or even just provide a space to hang out.

“Our goal here is to help any veteran. We want to create an atmosphere that is welcoming and beneficial for veterans.” He said. “We operate on a volunteer basis and any profit we receive goes directly towards assisting veterans.”

The center is not exclusively for vets, either. Family members and those currently serving in the armed forces are welcome to stop by if they need assistance, Dingman said.

“If a wife of a military member is struggling financially and comes to the Liberty Center, our job is to assist her. If we can help here, right then and now, then we will,” he said. “If not, we are working on alliances with organizations that can service them. The Liberty Center is a support system for all.”

Constance Burns, the founder and president of the National Association of American Veterans, said she was frustrated with the limited availability of veteran care, and the establishment of the new center in Iowa City is a big step in providing nongovernment veteran services.

“The [association] is nonprofit and operates strictly on donated funds,” she said. “We can’t compete with the government. However, we still manage to do the best we can for those who come to us asking for help.”

The association operates on a national level, providing veterans all across the nation with support, ranging from financial issues to health crises. Burns, who runs the organization from Washington, D.C., said having places that provide veteran services on a more local level is extremely important.

“I work with governors all over the nation. I have suggested that states provide veteran support like [the association] does on an individual level to better service everyone,” she said.

University of Iowa freshman Melena Burke, who is in the Army Reserve, said the opening of the Liberty Center would benefit everyone, not just veterans.

“The opening of a new veterans center here is a great thing. Since the center is open to all veterans and service members, it provides a place for family,” she said. “The veteran resource center on campus is great for students but, having a place for veterans of different times and generations to come together is even better.”

Burns said operations like the Liberty Center are essential to ensure veterans are taken care of.

“[The association] gets a lot of calls from a lot of places. It is important that small veteran centers are available across the states,” she said. “It’s essential veterans have a place to get help where they live instead of having to move and uproot to be able to get quality support.”

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