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Pennsylvania nonprofit plans $14 million veterans retreat lodge

By MARLEY PARISH | Centre Daily Times | Published: July 8, 2020

(Tribune News Service) — Because of the number of suicides among military veterans rising each year, a proposed retreat center in Centre County aims to help soldiers returning from active duty.

Founded in 2015 by Ryan Bowman — a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom — Pennsylvania Outdoor Veterans is a volunteer-based, nonprofit responsible for programs, activities and events that help benefit veterans and their families. The organization’s latest project is a lodge, located in Snow Shoe township, that will provide resources to help veterans adjust to life at home.

Still in the preliminary planning phase, Bowman appeared before the Centre County Board of Commissioners Tuesday to ask for a letter of support for the project, which would be built on 5,700 acres of land off of Gorton Road in Snow Shoe Township.

“Our mission and objective is to reduce the number of suicides among veterans as it’s rising,” Bowman said, citing Department of Defense data. “It’s been a five-year high of veteran suicides, but we now have caregivers who are committing suicide in addition to veterans.”

The lodge is to be named after Spc. Chad Edmundson and Staff Sgt. Mark Baum, soldiers from Pennsylvania who were killed while serving in Baghdad. Bowman said his organization has not yet made an official bid on the property but expects the total cost of the project will amount to $14 million.

The 21,000-square-foot lodge would have three floors, 18 rooms, a kitchen, dining area and organic garden.

“Studies show that nutrition plays a factor with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries with veterans,” Bowman said. “If we get a short period of time with those veterans in order to help them with getting set with five days of eating three times a day, perhaps when they turn home, they’re back into eating consistently.”

The Snow Shoe Township Supervisors will hear preliminary project plans at their meeting this week.

“This has been in the works for almost ... two years,” Bowman said, adding that he’s been in touch with 40 veterans and donors who are interested in seeing the project move forward. “This is not something that I came up with ... this has been a team effort.”

The commissioners did not issue a letter of support on Tuesday, but said they are eager to learn more about the project in the future.

©2020 the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.)
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