Any veteran in need or families of veterans can come to the Veterans Strong Community Center (VSCC) at Bristol City Hall, 111 North Main St. They held an open house on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The open house highlighted the regional information and resource center. It’s a regional center open to veterans, service members and families—regardless of discharge status or branch—from the greater Bristol area, including Bristol, Southington, Plainville, Plymouth, Harwinton, Burlington, Wolcott and Thomaston. Since opening in 2017, the center has added a number of services like notary public services, a computer and printer for veterans and service members to use.
VSCC split off from the Bristol veterans council, and they incorporated as a separate entity in 2017 to better serve the local veteran community. It’s a re-boot of a former US Army Reserve program called Army Strong Community Center, which first opened in Bristol in March 2012 and was one of six locations when the reserve’s organization closed in June 2016.
“We separated because it’s two different entities doing two different types of things,” said board treasurer Stanley Piotrowski. “Here it’s helping veterans one-on-one, so that anything they need, they get—if they need assistance at the VA Hospital, or the Soldier-Sailor Marine Fund.”
Although the Bristol veterans council focuses on Bristol residents, the Veterans Strong Community Center is a regional resource for veteran needs.
“A typical day is not typical, it varies,” said Donna Dognin, co-founder and executive director. “I have one veteran who lives locally, but he’s struggling. …its being someone local, close by that they can come in and talk to, they can vent to, get advice from.”
Board members applauded Dognin’s daily efforts for veterans in Bristol. Board president Sherelyn Labowski said that she’s constantly making referrals to Dognin, and she reacts quickly to the needs of veterans. “If she can’t do the job herself, she knows who to call to get it done,” said Labowski.
Sometimes, veterans need to be connected to a service or a contact. Sometimes, they need a phone number. Sometimes, they need services. Other times, they just need someone to listen to them and point them in the right direction. Dognin said that they try to make sure that veteran’s get a warm hand-off that’s personal and prompt.
“There like two different types of veterans that Donna deals with,” said board secretary Ed Litherland. “The ones that are trying to transition back to civilian life, and the ones that have been around for a while, but need assistance in other areas.”
The VSCC’s newest addition is a clothing closet and food pantry, which also has toiletries.
“With the food pantry my goal is to keep it supplied with paper goods because that type of stuff they can’t get if they use foodstamps, they can’t get if they use Soldier-Sailor Marine Fund,” said Dognin.
VSCC can be reached at (860) 584-6258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information can be found at their website, vetstronging.org or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, including upcoming events, contacts, and donations. VSCC is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jamila Young, email her at JYoung@BristolObserver.com.