It’s taken several years and millions of dollars, but on Saturday the final stage of the Soboleff-McRae Veterans Village and Wellness Center was unveiled to the public.
Touring around the office space at the grand opening, the Haines Wellness Center still has that fresh-paint smell. And while the majority of the rooms are still empty, one unit of the center was bustling.
Cindy Hagwood is a dental assistant at the new Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium dental wing. She’s only been at SEARHC for a couple of months, but says the new facility will have a huge impact on providers and clients, with or without insurance. And it’s not just all the new bells and whistles. It’s the people, she says.
“It’s a real benefit to the community to have the staff that they have here at the SEARHC dental clinic. They are just the nicest, kindest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Hagwood says.
Along with the dental clinic, Haines Assisted Living will house its corporate office at the center. They’re joined by Southeast Alaska Independent Living, Cornerstone Health and Hospice of Haines.
The project, including the Veterans Village apartments, cost nearly $10-million to complete. And while it hit a few snags along the way, its new tenants are optimistic. Haines Assisted Living board member Anne Hanssen says having all those organizations together is not just beneficial to veterans, but the whole community.
“Because they all work so closely together, it’s perfect.”
Down the hall and around the corner is a demo kitchen of sorts, to show how spaces can be adapted for people with disabilities. SAIL’s Margaret Sebens explains.
“SAIL serves people with disabilities and senior citizens, so for both of those populations having the offices that they’re using in one place is very important because they may have mobility issues, transportation issues or vision issues.”
The money for the project came from a few different sources. A large chunk was secured from the state years ago, with a sizable amount coming from Haines philanthropist Lucy Harrell. The Rasmuson Foundation kicked in a grant worth just under $500, 000 to the project.
Jayson Smart is a senior program officer for the Rasmuson Foundation. He says between grants for the housing portion and the wellness center, it’s “a thrill” to see it all come together.
“I know for the Foundation, whenever we see opportunities like that in different communities, that’s something that we really encourage and hope that we can support when the opportunity is right,” he says.
The wellness center still has some room to grow, not all the office spaces are occupied. But for the ones who are getting ready to set up shop, like Hospice of Haines, the opening was momentous. Here’s Hospice volunteer coordinator Shannon McPhetres:
“This is a great, new beginning.”
The open house was followed by a dinner with speeches and well-wishes from a variety of stakeholders, volunteers and supporters, including video messages from Gov. Bill Walker and Sen. Lisa Murkowski. In the coming weeks, the organizations will continue to move in and get settled.