PALMER — Connect Vets founder and CEO Robert Gordon is creating a community hub for local veterans in his neighborhood, and it’s attached to his family’s house. When it’s ready, local veterans will be able access a variety of resources.
“That’s what we want to provide, a warm, safe, secure place for veterans and their families to knock out projects,” Gordon said.
Connect Vets is a nonprofit organization that’s currently constructing the Connect Vets Skill Center with the support of local veteran groups, companies and various members from the community.
“It’s all volunteers,” Gordon said.
The building was bustling with activity Friday, as numerous volunteers from all walks of life helped construct the upcoming skill center. From plumbing and drywall to electrical wiring and heat insulation, there was no shortage of things to do but there didn’t seem to be a shortage of helping hands either.
Local plumber Will Jehlen busily installed water pipes as other volunteers worked around him. He said he saw people cycle through the building all day. He said that while he wasn’t a veteran himself, he could certainly appreciate Gordon’s vision.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s an awesome project. Anything that helps veterans is a good thing… That’s what we’re all here for,” Jehlen said.
Wasilla Home Depot associate Becky Catchings volunteered on Friday, helping with various tasks. She said Home Depot has volunteered time, and donated supplies and discounts to Connect Vets’ endeavor.
Catchings is a U.S. Army Veteran. She said this unique addition to the Valley will provide a very important service to local veterans and eliminate trips to Anchorage.
“I love it. It’s an awesome idea,” Catchings said. “It’s very important because our veterans supported us for how long in their commitment in their life? So, having the community support veterans is great.”
The skill center will serve as a resource center for local veterans. They will be able to learn vocational skills such as automotive work, learn how to polish up their resumes in the computer lab, or even stay the night with a soft bed and warm shower.
Gordon is currently in the U.S. Army National Guard Reserve. He founded Connect Vets with four other board members with military backgrounds. He said they all met through church and have been supporting local veterans and their families for over 10 years, finally establishing an official nonprofit in 2018.
Gordon said it’s all about supporting the Valley’s veterans, especially the ones in transition. The main goal of the Connect Vets is to help veterans integrate back into the community through vocational skills development, mentoring programs and transition services.
“I know there’s a huge need. I see it every day,” Gordon said.
Gordon said the shop will be their automotive center, offering mechanical workshops for varying skill levels, from a simple oil change to major engine repair.
There’s a constant flow of vehicles cycling through the property. Gordon said they fix up used vehicles and donate them to veterans in need.
He said they’ve donated several vehicles so far and that will continue to be one of their staple services since transportation is huge for veterans, be it for an appointment or commuting to work.
“If you’re a veteran and you need a car… we’ll get you one,” Gordon said.
Gordon and his wife Catherine have four sons who like to help out around the shop, especially their 3-year-old Levi.
“He’s like a shop rat. He’s out here forever,” Catherine said with a laugh.
Catherine said that this project is one of many examples of her husband modeling a service mindset, going above and beyond his service in the military to serving his community “even if he’s not in uniform.”
“He really understands what it means to live a life for others, and showing that to our kids is important to him too,” Catherine said.
Gordon affirmed that community service key in their household.
“The value of our family is to serve others,” Gordon said.
For more information about Connect Vets and how to get involved, visit connectvetsak.com.