New Mocksville intake center designed to help veterans in crisis

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

By Meredith Ratledge

Word Master Media Group

Just outside of downtown Mocksville, a small beacon of hope is quietly tucked away.

The Veterans View Intake Center is set to officially open its doors and accept its first residents. The center takes a unique and holistic approach to serving the needs of veterans and their families.

And it all started with a radical idea.

The center, known as VVIC, is dedicated to helping veterans and their families reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. The mission is to provide comprehensive care addressing the physical, emotional, and social needs of clients. Much of its team of healthcare providers, mental health specialists, and social workers are veterans.

Kevin Smith, the founder and CEO, is a dreamer. His dream, finally being realized through VVIC, has been five to six years in the making. Walking around this new campus, passion radiates from his demeanor.

“I’m a veteran; I served three years active duty in the Navy and six years reserve,” he said. “And I’ve been homeless myself twice in my life. I know what it’s like to not have. I know what it’s like to be hungry. I know a lot of those woes from personal experience.

“So I knew I wanted to do something about this, I just didn’t know what that was. And it’s become so much bigger than I originally thought.”

It’s often difficult for veterans to access full services from the Veterans Affairs, or VA, unless they have an extreme case, leaving many stuck in the middle with little support.

Bridging Gaps

Motivated by his own experiences, Smith sought to find a solution that would fill the gaps.

“I said I want to do what I can to impact that,” Smith said. “I can’t change the system, but I can at least make a difference with those people that I’m working with.

“I wanted to figure out a way to bridge gaps across county lines. I don’t like this division of color and politics. People need to figure out how to work together and come together. When you have these differences, the people you say you serve become the victims of what you sit around the table and meet about. That part doesn’t feel good. Because I’ve been a victim of those same circumstances.”

As he continued to share his vision with community members, he was able to gain more traction and support.

“This project really got started when I was invited to a friend’s house in Mocksville a few years ago. We talked about this dream I had, and a Realtor ended up telling me about the former Autumn Care property. Long story short, the good Lord aligned the stars, and we were able to close on the property in 2021.”

Setbacks to Blessings

Though they encountered a few setbacks in developing the facility, Smith said this turned into a blessing.

“Last winter, we had the pipes freeze, creating water damage, which caused a lot of building delays. But in this time, we learned that other things still needed to be addressed with the shelter.”

Throughout this process, Smith has been warmed by the outpouring of encouragement he continues to receive.

“My passion is now fueled even more by the support that we have received. Because I want the community collectively to create a model that concerns not only the veterans but also the folks in the community that we can touch. And that oftentimes will include nonveterans. We’re going to utilize our services to reach out as far as we can, and help as many as we can, and go from there.”

The model that the center has adopted is certainly aspirational, providing a number of resources to its residents:

• Homelessness and Housing Services: VVIC provides housing assistance and support services to veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This includes emergency shelter, transitional housing, and permanent housing solutions.

• Mental Health Services: This includes therapy, counseling, and medication management, with specialized services for PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other conditions.

• Substance Abuse Treatment: VVIC provides substance abuse treatment and support services for veterans struggling with addiction.

• Healthcare Services: These services include primary care, specialty care, and dental services, as well as health education and disease prevention programs.

• Justice Center: Legal assistance and advocacy services are available to veterans who are involved in the criminal justice system.

• Education and Vocational Services: VVIC offers educational and vocational training programs to help veterans build new skills and pursue new careers.

• Entrepreneurial Support: Support and resources are offered to veterans who want to start or grow their own businesses.

• Nutrition and Agriculture Services: VVIC provides nutrition education to help veterans and their families access healthy food options. It also offers training programs in agriculture and sustainable farming.

Once fully operational early next year, VVIC will include rooms for nearly 70 residents. The campus will include a greenhouse, library, cafeteria, laundry, an incubator space with conference rooms for local businesses and startups, as well as a coffee and sandwich shop.

The greenhouse, in particular, will be a central tool. Equipped with several hydroponic towers, it aims to feed the facility with fresh produce year-round, as well as create an educational resource for the community.

The center will partner with Davie County High School and Davidson-Davie Community College to develop a culinary arts program that utilizes the greenhouse’s produce, making it a learning tool for veterans and students. Excess produce will be sold at farmers’ markets and donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The greenhouse was completed by Davie Construction Co.

The potential doesn’t stop there, as Smith plans to host workforce development training for the residents, including continuing education courses in carpentry, electricity, and tourism. This investment in the residents aligns with the goal of helping veterans build a better future for themselves.

Adjacent property will house tiny homes for residents ready to enter the transitional phase of their time at VVIC. While in independent housing, residents will gain more freedom while maintaining nearby access to the support and services they need. This will prepare them for the next stage in life to ultimately move off-site, he said.

Community Celebration

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late September hosted by the Davie County Chamber of Commerce, numerous family members, friends, community members, and leaders were eager to show their admiration and support. As part of the celebration, Rolling Thunder NC-6 donated flags to VVIC and conducted a flag-raising ceremony. Freightliner’s Ride of Pride trucks recognizing each branch of the military were on hand to honor the veterans.

Brian Mobley, veterans employment consultant for the N.C. Department of Commerce, stated: “This is a unique facility in North Carolina and a model we can spread across the state.”

Smith expressed his gratitude for the outreach, love, and support that he has received from Davie County.

“From the very beginning, you have welcomed us with open arms and made us feel like family. Your genuine care and dedication have truly touched our hearts. At VVIC, we believe that building strong relationships is essential in making a positive impact on the lives of veterans and their families.”

Many of the staff and volunteers at VVIC have personal connections to veterans or are veterans, which motivated them to get involved. Their personal experiences also make them better equipped to connect with the residents and understand their needs.

While it can take months to receive a living placement at the VA, the VVIC aims to process initial medical and physiological screenings in one day. By the time a new resident wraps up their welcome tour of the campus, they’ll be ready to move in.

Looking ahead to the coming weeks and months, Smith is seeing his dreams materialize as the center begins to welcome its first residents.

A handful of veterans are being brought on-site as initial residents. They have skill sets that will help get the facility up and running and include plumbers, electricians, and kitchen staff. They will also help build the temporary transitional housing on the adjacent property so that it’s ready in early January.

As Smith reflects on the center’s story so far, he smiles, noting, “This has been lots of hard work, but more blessings are on the way.”

The VVIC is also hosting a black-tie winter gala and fundraiser on Saturday, Feb. 3.