San Diego County is a region with one of the nation’s highest number of veterans of any county in the US. Serving that community is the mission of the Veterans Association of North County (VANC).
Today VANC is a vibrant 13,500-square-foot one stop resource center in North San Diego County, where all veterans, active-duty military, and their loved ones can go for assistance with jobs, education, finances, health, wellness, and family issues.
To make all of this possible took the vision of Chuck Atkinson, a former commander of the American Legion Post 146 and 27-year military veteran, along with support from the City of Oceanside and a unique collaboration with Stirling Development.
It was 2004 when Atkinson began his quest for a permanent home for a group of more than 25 dedicated veteran’s organizations that he had brought together under a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. What is today a fully-functioning meeting and training center was then a vacated former police headquarters. The City agreed to rent it to Atkinson at no cost as long as he completed all of the necessary building improvements within three years. According to Atkinson, the group had about $300 toward what would be almost $1.3 million in projected costs to make the building move-in ready.
“Stirling Development stepped in when no one knew who we were,” Atkinson shared. Stirling Development is the master developer of Ocean Ranch, a premier business park that is home to a number of global corporations.
“We owe it to our veterans to support them and help them transition from military to civilian life. It’s an honor to show our gratitude and support. That’s why when we learned about Chuck and his work to create VANC we had to help,” said Stirling President & CEO Dougall Agan.
Stirling stepped in to help Atkinson raise money. But more than that, Stirling partnered with Atkinson to provide the necessary project management and construction oversight critical to ensure the building improvements would be completed in time.
This important partnership has resulted in a place designed with the veterans’ needs in mind. “The military can be a small community where everyone is connected. When they leave that close-knit community, it really is a significant and emotional transition to civilian life for someone who only knows a military environment,” said Atkinson.
“People walk through these doors for many reasons, PTSD, drug and alcohol addiction, and housing resources, but helping them find a job can be the most important. Without a job, things start to fall apart. Many veterans come to the center each month for job training in areas such as culinary, cyber security, fiber optics, and firefighting,” Atkinson shared.
The offerings and activities at VANC are diverse, including exercise classes, special events, toy drives, wellness seminars, movie nights, support groups, networking, career fairs and so much more.
Stirling remains a strong partner to VANC helping them to meet the needs of all the military men and women who walk through their door. In addition to its early management support, Stirling has donated $200,000 to the center.
“Without the service of our military we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we have today,” Agan said. “We’ll continue to be part of VANC and support the work being done there. It’s an important part of who we are as an organization and how we can share our gratitude.”
Stirling is honored to be a presenting sponsor of the Enlisted Recognition Reception to be held at VANC on Thursday, February 22, 2018 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The Oceanside Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee created the Enlisted Recognition Program in 2001 as a way for the business community to recognize the excellence of the local enlisted personnel. The evening will recognize Marines and Sailors who have been identified by their respective commands as top performers and contributors.