TINTON FALLS – There are now 70 new one-bedroom units of permanent housing with amenities and supplements for every veteran, following the gala ribbon cutting ceremony for the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community on Essex Rd. Friday. The noon time ceremony followed a formal event Thursday evening which marked the official opening of the nationally known Soldier On organization.
The four story single building veterans community, in addition to providing permanent housing with 80 per cent of the units already filled and housing beginning in December, already has a waiting list of approximately 100 more veterans. lt represents more than a decade of challenging work by a team of resolute Americans, including Monmouth County Commission Lilian G. Burry, former Tinton Falls Council President Gary Baldin and former Tinton Falls Police Chief and Mayor Gerald Turning, for their more than a decade of dedication and collaboration with Soldier On, and Winn Development, who partnered with the non-profit organization to provide housing for homeless and formerly homeless veterans. Each of the units is low income house tax credit qualified, with 18 restricted through a project based Section 8 contract. Because of Soldier On and the concerted efforts of officials and volunteers in Monmouth County, the Gordon Mansfield community is one of the first in the country to offer rental housing to veterans with a range of incomes and a means leading to eventual ownership.
Soldier ON CEO Bruce Buckley CEO added his praise and thanks to Burry, Baldwin and Turning at Friday’s ceremony, joining in the applause and commendations of the approximately 100 who attended the event.
The community is named for the late Gordon H. Mansfield, a highly decorated Vietnam War Veteran who also served as Deputy Secretary of Affairs for Fair Housing and Equality Opportunity at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mansfield was also Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs following a highly distinguished military career during which he earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, and the Presidential Unit Citation and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Each of the apartments is equipped with all kitchen appliances, a dining area, living room and bedroom and a private bath with adequate closets, and bathrooms large enough to accommodate any type of ambulatory conveyance a veteran needs. Each is also furnished with a dining table and chairs, a full-size bed,and mattress, a dresser, nightstand, sofa, coffee table and tv console. All units come completely stocked with cookware, bakeware, utensils, linens, pillows, sheets, towels and cleaning supplies, as well as all utilities, cable and WIFI costs already included in the rent.
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The veterans will also have access to transportation to medical appointments, employment, shopping, community event and other resources, and some of the tenants even already have taken advantage of job opportunities within the community, including van drivers and horticultural workers.
A number of counseling sessions are also offered to all residents on site, including credit counseling, legal assistance for health care proxies, power of attorney or will signing. There is even an area set aside for a crematorium should veterans choose to have their final resting place near the veterans with whom they have spent such important parts of their lives.
The spacious grounds include walking trails and outdoor relaxation areas. On-site patios are equipped with gas grills.
The community also features a separate female wing for those female veterans who choose not to mingle in a mixed environment. The unit has a balcony and additional community space, and all veterans have access to all amenities, outdoor areas and all services.
Construction came in under budget at a $23 million total cost, and was completed within the period originally set for the housing on the wooded 12-acre site donated by Tinton Falls for the veterans community.
Congressman Chris Smith who drove from Washington DC early in the morning to ensure his attendance at the ceremony, in spite of late night Congressional hearings, praised the cooperative efforts that brought the long time dream to reality. Smith also praised naming it for Mansfield, whom he knew personally through his work with veterans and Smith’s Congressional committee and whom he personally admired for his dedication to the nation in spite of his own physical disabilities.
Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, State Senator Vin Gopal, County Commissioner Director John Arnone and other county commissioners were also present for the ceremony along with administrators and elected officials from Tinton Falls. Gopal praised both Burry and Baldwin for their long term efforts and determinations to have a veterans complex become a reality.
Work on the dream began when former Coast Guard Captain Donald Burry learned of the Soldier On concept and relayed it to his wife, Commissioner Burry, who also serves as the county’s representative on the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA). Both Burrys, thought Soldier On’s idea in housing for veterans would be perfect on the former army installation.
Buckley singled out Burry as the driving force, the energy and the person who was always on the phone making things happen from Day One.
When plans for the housing to be placed on Fort Monmouth proved too difficult to accomplish, Baldwin, who was Tinton Falls’ representative to FMERA, suggested his township’s acreage adjacent to his own home in Seabrook Village, offering it, with the approval of the governing body for one dollar.
Gopal said he wasn’t in office in Trenton 10 minutes when Burry called him for assistance and weekly phone calls thereafter to ensure he got the message and she could get funding. Arnone named the project the Monmouth County Planning Board’s Project of the Year.
A bronze statue of Burry, Baldwin and Turning is in a permanent location at the site.
Applications for the one-bedroom studio-style units are being accepted by contacting [email protected] or by calling 888-413-9627. A leasing office accepting appointments is located at 4070 Asbury Ave.
“Today we take one small but tangible step in doing our duty by providing an opportunity for those who have bravely served and sacrificed for us all to have a chance for a better life,” Burry said. “I hope things like this will soon cease to be special occasions. In pursuit of that day, I can only say two words – Soldier On.”