Florida's Air Force Enlisted Village cuts ribbon at new community
By JIM THOMPSON | The Northwest Florida Daily News | Published: October 22, 2020
SHALIMAR, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass, named just four months ago to become the first woman to serve as the highest-ranking noncommissioned member of a U.S. military service, lent an added air of importance Tuesday to another milestone at the Air Force Enlisted Village.
Bass was among a number of people who cut the ribbon for Bob Hope Village 6, the latest residential community at the AFEV. As with the rest of the residences at the nonprofit enterprise, the new apartments are intended primarily to serve the surviving spouses of retired enlisted Air Force, Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve personnel.
"It's a great day to be among family and friends ... and it's a great day to be here where we get to cut the ribbon on something so very special as this," Bass said at the ribbon-cutting.
Bass' presence continued and solidified a longstanding relationship between the chief master sergeants of the Air Force and the Air Force Enlisted Village.
"The Air Force is truly a family," Bass continued, "and when we think about that family, we think about our service members ... but we continue that heritage of family even outside of service.
"That's what this is all about — continuing to care for airmen and their families in and out of service. And I love the mission that this great organization brings when they truly talk about a mission of compassion, and they've been doing it for over 52 years."
Bass pledged to continue solidifying relationships between herself, the Air Force and the AFEV "so we can continue on for another 50 years and open up many more villages."
Bob Hope Village 6 is a $20 million project funded through a combination of AFEV fundraising and a tax-exempt bank loan issued through SunTrust Bank with approval of the Okaloosa County Commission.
The AFEV broke ground on Village 6, designed as an all-in-one community for active and independent adults, in the fall of 2018. In addition to its 63 apartments, which range in size from 1,100 to 1,400 square feet, Village 6 has its own clubhouse, wheelchair-accessible swimming pool and other amenities that also are available to other AFEV residents. Village 6 apartments feature six two-bedroom, two-bathroom floor plans with either a balcony or patio.
Residents began moving into the new village in late May, and according to Brooke McLean, CEO and president of the Air Force Enlisted Village, all but eight of the apartments are occupied.
Each of the 63 apartments is designed with wide doors and hallways, grab bars in showers and other features, such as electrical outlets installed higher above the floor than in traditional construction to be easier to reach. Four of the Village 6 units are designed to the specifications of the Americans With Disabilities Act, with specially located counters and other features designed for residents with handicaps.
Construction and eventual occupancy of Village 6 were slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tuesday's ribbon-cutting, delayed from original plans for a May celebration, featured a small, socially distanced and masked crowd. Residents and others not attending the ceremony were able to see it via live video.
"We realized we had to do more for our community," McLean said as he traced the history of the project — which included workforce and supply chain issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The last three months of construction were an incredible struggle," he added.
Among the other speakers at Tuesday's ribbon-cutting was Dr. Julie Crutchfield, chairwoman of the AFEV board of directors, who thanked the community for its fundraising and other support of the nonprofit residential community.
Crutchfield also mad it clear that the AFEV won't rest on its laurels with the completion of Bob Hope Village 6. In terms of additional services that soon could be available to residents, Crutchfield said Enlisted Village officials are in talks with a company that provides skilled nursing services. And, she added, the AFEV is already looking at adding to its campus, with yet another new residential community that would, in part, serve wounded warriors.
"We still have a lot more work to do," Crutchfield told the small audience of community leaders, military personnel and people associated with the financing, construction and other aspects of the Village 6 project. "We're looking forward to doing a lot more for our community."
McLean and Crutchfield stressed that the AFEV is taking a proactive approach to serving both its current and future residents.
"The senior population is growing every day," Crutchfield noted in an interview before the ribbon-cutting, adding that the AFEV's approach to providing housing is also to provide "a sense of community and belonging."
"We want to make sure we're taking care of people in the best way," McLean told the people who attended the ceremony.
Beyond serving surviving spouses of enlisted airmen, AFEV serves — on a space-available basis — surviving spouses of enlisted personnel from other military services; retired enlisted Air Force and other military service couples; spouses of active-duty military personnel who die or are killed on active duty, and in other circumstances, mothers of active-duty service members, or on a temporary basis, active-duty personnel who need housing in disaster situations.
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