MONTVILLE, Maine — Volunteers have cleared land in Montville and have started raising funds for the Garry Owen House, a place that would serve homeless veterans from all over the state.
In the last two weeks, separate fundraising efforts have brought in about $2,000, bringing the total amount raised to $8,575, according to Heather Carle, who sits on the board of directors of the Garry Owen House. Additionally, organizers tore down a decrepit farmhouse in August that stood on the 7-acre parcel at the intersection of Routes 3 and 220, where the proposed $775,000 homeless veterans’ shelter would be built.
There’s still a lot of money to raise, but organizers like Warren Ard, a local contractor who served in the Army during the Vietnam War era, said he’s confident they can do it. Volunteers have stepped up to help, doing work like taking down the farmhouse and starting to prepare the site for the new structure.
“There shouldn’t be a veteran out there that calls the street home,” he said recently.
The name Garry Owen does not refer to a person, Ard said, but to a legend in an Irish tune that dates back to the 1600s. Garryowen is a place in Ireland. The song has been used by the U.S. Army’s 1st and 7th Cavalry Regiments and holds an honored place in military history. Three years ago, Ard and several others formed the Garry Owen Motorcycle Club with the ultimate goal of building and maintaining a shelter for veterans — but not the kind of shelter that kicks people out during the day or after just a few nights.
It will be designed to address specific needs of veterans that include substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, broken marriages and a general mistrust of the government that may discourage some to seek help through the Veterans Administration. According to the blueprints for the Garry Owen House, it will be a spacious, one-story building with room for 24 beds and a large gathering room in the center. The veterans will be able to grow vegetables on the land around the facility, Ard said. It would be the only shelter of its kind in the state.
The plans sounded good to Joseph and Kristen Dorval of Belfast, who learned about the Garry Owen House while they were getting ready for their recent wedding. Joseph Dorval, 31, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan while in the Army and in the Maine Army National Guard, said he decided that instead of getting many small gifts for the couple’s groomsmen and bridesmaids, they felt the money would be better used by donating it to the Garry Owen House.
“I’m a veteran, and I had a lot of people help me out. They didn’t need to, but they helped me get back into regular society,” Dorval said recently. “The Garry Owen House — they’re just helping those guys get the help they need. … We didn’t just do it to feel good about ourselves. I just figured it was the best use of that money.”
Ard said he was deeply appreciative of the Dorvals’ gift.
“It just shows true American spirit from a veteran who has been through so much,” Ard said Tuesday. “To still keep giving to his brothers — it’s a remarkable thing. He went above and beyond the call of duty.”
Another gift to the shelter came via a charity motorcycle ride over the weekend, which raised nearly $1,500 for the house.
Carle said many other people have indicated they would like to give money to the effort, too. But the group has been waiting until they can find a fiscal agent, which will allow the Garry Owen House board to give a charitable donations letter to donors for tax purposes. She said a representative from a Waldo County nonprofit agency attended a recent board meeting to learn about the new group. Now, Garry Owen House board members are waiting for that nonprofit agency to vote on whether they will become the fiscal agent. They did not want to name the organization until a decision has been made.
But Ard isn’t waiting. The bearded, motorcycle-riding builder said he’s going to attend the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity later this month to get the word out to a sector of the population perhaps more noted for peace activism.
“I don’t mind them,” he said of the stereotypical Common Ground Country Fair attendee. “They don’t have to like war. But we have to take care of the men that did go to give them the freedom not to like it.”