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Nonprofit Spotlight: Veterans Guest House – serving veterans and their families

Plumas Bank sponsors this content

Noreen Leary

CEO of Veterans Guest House

VGH 3.0: The newly expanded Guest House, which opened in July 2018 brought the house to 33 bed capacity.
Courtesy Photo

WAYS TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE VETERANS GUEST HOUSE

  • Donate: Any amount is appreciated. Visit http://www.veteransguesthouse.org.
  • Donate a Wishlist item. The latest needs are on the front page of the website. Many businesses and groups hold Wishlist drives for us, and we so greatly appreciate those items.
  • Engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter
  • Enter for your chance to win $5,000 by supporting the “Salute & Support Our Veterans” annual fundraising raffle. You have until Saturday, December 12th at noon to purchase your winning tickets. When you buy a $100 raffle ticket, you will get the chance to win either a $5,000 grand prize, a $ 2,500-second prize, or one of five $500 prizes. Remember, the odds are in your favor – only 500 tickets are being sold! Get yours now! We sold out last year – don’t delay! Tickets can be purchased at http://www.veteransguesthouse.com.

“Never again on our watch!” This vow, made over 25 years ago, was a promise to our veterans and their families. A promise that they would always have a safe, warm, and clean place to lay their heads at night while in the Reno-Sparks area for medical treatment.

Our founders made that vow after noticing fogged-up car windows in the parking lot of the VA Medical Center on many cold mornings. This could only mean one thing; someone had slept in that car. Veterans and their family members were sleeping in their cars because they had no other options. They could not afford lodging. They could not crash on someone’s couch, and they could not drive the long distance back home every night.

On December 14, 1994, because of that vow, Veterans Guest House hosted our 1st guest in a 1935 bungalow located at the corner of Taylor and Locust (VGH 1.0). This house, affectionately known as the Spouse House, had 3-5 beds depending on the year and provided about 75 nights of lodging per month.

As word spread that there was an alternative to Veterans and their families sleeping in their cars or hospital waiting room chairs, occupancy at the house quickly exceeded 100%. In 2004 the brick bungalow was demolished to make way for a 4,700 sq ft. “home away from home” with 12-beds (VGH 2.0). This home was augmented with five additional beds in 2012. These homes served our veterans and their families well for just over a decade.

With an aging veteran population and continued conflict globally combined with the population growth in Nevada the number of veterans needing medical care was forecasted to grow. At this point, the Guest House was once again bursting at the seams, and something needed to be done. Recognizing this need, and our promise to care for Veterans today, tomorrow, and in the years to come, we planned, designed, and constructed an expansion. The existing building and the expansion were connected to create one seamless building (VGH 3.0) with over 16,000 square feet of living space.

VGH 2.0: The 4,000 sq foot home away from home opened in 2004, and originally had 12 beds with an additional 5 beds being added in 2012.
Courtesy Photo

This newly expanded Guest House opened in July 2018 with 33-beds and the ability to provide over 12,000 guest nights a year. The expanded Guest House has five single rooms to accommodate veterans experiencing extensive post-traumatic stress disorder or medical issues requiring private quarters. All other rooms are semi-private with a shared bathroom. Increased room sizes in the expanded facility allow families more space to stay together, and guests in wheelchairs improved mobility. In addition to the bedrooms, the dining room and kitchen areas are designed to meet our guests’ needs better.

Year after year, the need grows. We have provided nearly 80,000 guest nights since 1994. I can give you more facts and figures, but the people we serve are the heart of this story. The people we serve are the reason this community so generously supports Veterans Guest House.

Like everyone, the Veterans Guest House has been impacted by the unprecedented changes in our world this past year. We had projected 2020 to be a record, providing over 6,500 nights of lodging, but alas, COVID-19. As an essential business, we remained open throughout the shutdown, and are currently accepting guests at a reduced capacity. We have implemented policies and procedures to ensure the maximum safety and health of our guests and staff.

VGH 1.0: The original house, known as the Spouse House served veterans and family members from 1994-2004. It was demolished in 2004 when the need for VGH 2.0 became apparent.
Courtesy Photo

As I mentioned earlier, the real story is the people that we serve. John, a retired Army Ranger from McDermitt, Nevada, started cancer treatments just weeks before COVID-19 hit the United States. John, and his service dog Rain, had been staying with us. Faced with the choice of continuing life-saving treatments during such an uncertain time or going home, John found solace in knowing he had a safe, warm, supportive place to lay his head each night at the Guest House. He knew that we were taking all precautions to ensure his well-being. John was not the only one who stayed during that time. Our Guests all took comfort in knowing the Guest House is here for our veterans.

Our mission has never wavered. We provide qualified United States military service veterans and their families temporary overnight accommodations while receiving treatment at any medical facility in the Reno/Sparks area. Whether a veteran or an immediate family member needs medical treatment, the Guest House stands ready to remove the burden of lodging from their shoulders.

Veterans Guest House is the only facility of its kind (that we know of) in the country. We are entirely privately funded through the generosity of our community. All funds donated stay right here in the Reno/Sparks area. I want to reiterate that we receive no government funding.

As I reflect on Veterans Guest House’s history, it is hard to imagine those who so selflessly served our country sleeping in their cars. Every night our Veterans and their family members have a safe, clean, and comfortable bed because of a group of people who didn’t look away when confronted with a need in our community. Their passion continues to inspire our team every day, but we do not do this alone. Volunteers, supporters, and our guests are the ones who truly make this house a home.

We invite you to become part of our family through one of the many ways to get involved. To learn more about us, visit http://www.veteransguesthouse.com or give us a call at 775-324-6958. We are very proud of our “Home Away from Home!” Thanks to Plumas Bank for helping us tell our story.

Noreen Leary is CEO of Veterans Guest House. Plumas Bank sponsors this content.