By Candice Stilwell | News Staff Writer
From a public lounge at the HUB to a private house near Whitworth’s campus, the veterans and military personnel associated with Whitworth has seen a lot of new changes to their on campus spaces in the last few year, and a new grant from Gesa Credit Union will enable even more upgrades soon.
Whitworth University’s new Military and Veteran’s Resource Center (MAVRC) has recently received a $15,000 grant from Gesa Credit Union through Gesa’s Local Heroes Grant which focuses on providing money to organizations which support firefighters, healthcare workers, law enforcement, teachers and veterans.
The funds awarded to Whitworth are being used to upgrade the MAVRC a space that opened last fall to support veterans, military workers and their families. The MAVRC is 3,000 square feet and, according to Phil Labrie, Associate Director for Military and Veterans Outreach, has a “computer lab, kitchens, snacks, TVs, a game room with Xbox, and laundry appliances. It’s a really nice space,” Labrie said. The space is accessible to not just veteran students, but their dependents as well.
The Whitworth website says, the MAVRC is “a place where military-connected students can have community, feel appreciated and valued, and gather to study or host special events.”
Greg Orwig, Vice President for Admissions and Student Financial Service, also works specifically with the veterans and military in Whitworth’s community for recruitment and outreach. Regarding the space, Orwig said, “We have long wanted to have a dedicated space to provide services and supports for veterans and military connected students and for veterans to able to connect with one another.” Orwig worked with Labrie on the grant last summer on recommendation of Christie Anderson, a former professor in Continuing Studies at Whitworth University.
Labrie said, “I just filled out the paperwork and answered the questions and submitted it. To be honest with you I kind of forgot about it. I didn’t really spend a lot of time on this grant… I just kind of did it and sent it off.” Labrie asked for the grant to be used to make the MAVRC more accessible. Several months after the application was sent in, he received word that Whitworth would be receiving the money.
According to Orwig, “Phil learned about this grant application and recognized it as a potential fit and then pursued it. Phil Labrie is an unstoppable force when it comes to seeking out resources to serve and support our veterans, who have sacrificed so much in serving our country. Pursuing and receiving this grant is just the latest in a long list of fundraising efforts and other initiatives Phil has led to transform MAVRC from the run-down, outdated house it was just over a year ago to the warm, welcoming oasis for veterans that it is today.”
According to a study done by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, “Four out of five community colleges indicated that veterans need greater academic support than the general student population. All the colleges also identified a range of non-academic barriers confronting veterans, including difficulties transitioning from military to civilian life, mental health issues, limited finances, housing instability, family problems, and unemployment.”
Along with the grant recently received, Labrie also said they had a lot of work done through the KXOY Extreme Team which did an extreme makeover on the space in March. The work done included an ADA sidewalk leading to MAVRC and a new patio, which according to Labrie amounted to approximately $50,000, with additional crowdfunding contributions covering some of the cost as well.
Labrie said that, “It’s just great to have a space for our veterans that served in the military that are coming back to campus [who] are not the traditional student… it gives them a space to come and feel comfortable and build community… I want them to feel comfortable that they can come here and use this space to study, to relax, to grab a snack, to play a game.”