Story by BRUCE COLLIER, photos by Deborah Channell
The Veterans Lodge is still in its first stages – land has been acquired, a right-of-way donation made, initial funding efforts have been secured from the state legislature, and incentive grants applied for. Last Saturday, Veterans Lodge founder/CEO Julie Connell Smith and her husband Chad made the acquaintance of a houseful of guests at the historic DeFuniak Springs home of Diane Pickett.
Pickett laid out a feast of a buffet, with assorted dishes (her own recipes) both sweet and savory, prepared and catered by Chef Tavita Lemapu of Tropicana Club and his crew. Extra touches included a caviar, vodka and champagne room, a scotch and cigar bar, and live music from Mark Douglass. Guests moved in and out of the rooms eating, conversing and getting to know Smith, who was full of enthusiasm and gratitude about the prospect of establishing Veterans Lodge. Smith is already scouting for staff and making local contacts, and expressed great satisfaction at local support, having been in town to witness the Jan. 26 – 27 memorial honors and interment of Lt. Ewart Sconiers.
According to a press release published in the Herald – Breeze last month, the Veterans Lodge plans to provide: Patient Rehabilitation; Post-secondary education; Job training for specific skills requested by affiliated employers; Cutting edge research and development for frontal head injury and PTSD; Lessening the burden on the government through private institutions; Temporary (up to 6 months) housing; Long term wellness care; and Holistic family therapy.