From The Tribune staff reports
LEEDS — Birmingham-based Priority Soldier and the Leeds-based Moton Community Center are inviting the community to help raise funds for the project this Labor Day weekend on Saturday, September 3, during a “Salute to Our Heroes and Community” event.
The idea of a Tri-County Veterans Services and Community Center (www.tricountyvetcenter.org) has been a “labor of love” for Birmingham-based Priority Soldier and the Leeds-based Moton Community Center. It will be a full day of festival activities capped off with a Southern Soul Blues Concert.
The event will take place at the Moton Community Center in Leeds.
In the morning, beginning at 11 a.m., there will be family fun on the grounds, including bouncy houses and slides, horse rides, local vendors, and a free food box giveaway between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.
At 2 p.m., while the family fun continues, Priority Soldier will be hosting a Mental Health Forum in the Moton Community Center library in recognition that September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Forum will feature speakers from the National Suicide Prevention Council, The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, and Priority Soldier. Veterans who attend are invited to share their stories about their service and mental health with Priority Soldier.
In the evening, beginning at 4 p.m., everyone is welcomed to attend a Southern Soul Blues Concert, headlined by Birmingham native Mose Stovall and featuring other artists like Cadillac Man, Ms. Fe Fe, Ken Ore, and Sweet Lou. There will be food trucks with a wide variety of offerings, and guests are asked to bring their own tents and lawn chairs. No outside food will be allowed. Tickets are $20 per person and must be bought in advance. The proceeds will go toward the Tri-County Veterans Services and Community Center.
The Tri-County Veterans Services and Community Center project has been borne out of a need to help the 60,000+ veterans and their families in Jefferson, Shelby, and St. Clair counties. Many of these veterans are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, homelessness, or addictions, or they and their families need help getting their military benefits and other services. Unfortunately, Alabama has a veteran suicide rate that – at 18% – is higher than the national average and significantly higher than the civilian average. Priority Solider and the Moton Community Center both see this as a tragedy that must be addressed.
The vision for the Center, proposed by the non-profit Priority Soldier, which addresses critical issues affecting veterans and their families, will provide the following services to veterans on-site in Leeds:
- Mental health support for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
- Counseling with licensed and trained counselors and psychiatrists.
- Administrative support to veterans and veteran families applying to the Veterans Administration for benefits.
- Support and guidance to obtain housing for homeless veterans.
The Moton Center Educational Foundation operates the Moton Community Center in Leeds. Representatives from the Moton Center Educational Foundation and Priority Soldier Inc. believe that positioning the Tri-County Veteran Services Center on the same site with the Moton Community Center will provide veterans additional opportunities to participate with their community via mentoring, coaching, job training, etc. This will help them to reintegrate and become fully functioning, healthy members of their community. The new Community Center will have spaces for children’s after-school activities and summer programs, spaces for senior activities, and recreation facilities that can be used by veterans or anyone else in the community, as well as meeting and event space on the premises.
All donations for the Tri-County Veterans and Community Center are welcome. If you can’t make the “Salute to Our Heroes and Community” event, you are still welcome to support the cause. To donate, click on the Eventbrite link, select “Tickets,” and choose “Donation.” Or you can donate at www.tricountyvetcenter.org.