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Veterans get one-stop center to deal with needs

With the cutting of a red, white and blue ribbon, the Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York opened for business Monday in Buffalo.

The idea of having a single location with many services to help veterans was years in the making, according to wounded Vietnam War veteran Edward Simmons, who was given the honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon at the center housed at 1280 Main St.

“We started talking about this 40 years ago and had a number of conversations. It took a lot of dedicated people, and it’s more than an honor to be here,” said Simmons, former deputy director of the state’s Division of Veterans Affairs and co-chairman of the center’s board.

Roger L. Woodworth, the center’s president and chief executive officer, told an overflow crowd of public officials, veterans and their supporters that the center speaks well of the region and its concern for those who have defended the United States.

“The legacy of Western New Yorkers putting veterans first through the Veterans One-stop Center begins today,” Woodworth said.

Center services include U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and non-VA benefits counseling, housing and emergency services, case management that integrates services for veterans with multiple needs, employment resources and readjustment counseling services.

In summing up the convenience of the center, Roger Hoffman, board chairman of Goodwill Industries of Western New York and a founding partner of the center, said veterans will no longer have to travel all over town when seeking different services and getting frustrated in the process.

“The idea is to replace a bus ride with a walk down the hall and a soft hand-off,” Hoffman said.

Elected officials who spoke at the grand opening included Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Mayor Byron W. Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, all of them expressing thanks to veterans for their service and reiterating the need for such a center to make it easier to obtain assistance.

Funds for the center are coming from a number of sources, including the John R. Oishei Foundation, First Niagara Foundation, National Fuel Company Foundation, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project and the Robert J. and Martha B. Fierle Foundation, in addition to a number of other supporters.