KENTWOOD, Mich. — Right off of busy 44th Street is a building bustling with activity. There are veterans inside enjoying a good conversation, playfully arguing about whether the Army or the Navy is the better branch of the military and even playing a game of Battleship.
This is Hero's Corner, and for many West Michigan veterans this place feels like home.
"It seriously is a dream come true. It's something that I always wanted. But I never knew when God was going to give it to me, and when I got it, it's more than what I ever expected," said founder and board president Reggie Howard.
13 ON YOUR SIDE was at the organization's first meeting back in April at Marge's Donut Den in Wyoming. Since then, the organization has grown fast. And with that growth, Hero's Corner found a home of their own.
"It was time to move. We are very grateful for Marge. It was a great seat, but we kind of outgrew it for serving our population," said Hero's Corner director and brander Shontaze Jones.
"We have people who need clothing. We have people who need food. We have people who need cell phones. And as we began to grow, and we understood the needs of what our mission was, this place became a necessity."
Hero's Corner is a drop-in center for veterans to come and enjoy fellowship. Unlike some other existing veteran organizations, no appointment is required to visit. It's also a safe place where veterans can go without having to worry about being around alcohol or drugs.
"I think what makes the Hero's Corner so unique is that it's a sober place," said Dr. Kimberly Barrington who served in the U.S. Navy.
"It is phenomenal. I think that we forget about the power of the grassroots activists, organizations, and the impact that they actually have."
Hero's Corner also welcomes veterans regardless of how long they served or what branch they served in.
"We created something from the voices of all veterans, no matter the classification, the time of service, and no matter the branch of service. Also, we put a lot of thought into the families of veterans," Jones said.
Thornell Billingslea, a combat veteran who earned a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam, says organizations like Hero's Corner are a "tremendous help" for veterans.
"It's sad that we don't have enough facilities like this to help veterans. Whatever they need, the resources are there. And a lot of times they don't know where to go. This place is going to show them where they go," said Billingslea who also serves as the Vice President of the Michigan Veterans Assistance Program.
When 13 ON YOUR SIDE last visited Hero's Corner, they were asking people to donate board games that veterans could play at the drop-in center. Those wishes were granted and Hero's Corner is now full of board games and movies for veterans to enjoy.
From here, they're asking for volunteers and monetary donations.
"We are getting our 501C3, which starts financially at $600. We're also covering rental prices, liability insurance, internet, and necessities to keep Hero's Corner on the mission," Jones said.
They also have a board of items that they need at their new location, 2120 44th Street SE, Suite 202 in Kentwood 49508. Hero's Corner is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also email them at email@example.com.
"I just want to thank everybody who helped make this possible. I can't even name them all, but I just want to tell you, we're changing veteran lives, and if you get a chance, please come out and see us," Howard said.
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