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A bright future for the Dom

Support from the community and from Walden pays off

It wasn't so long ago that the future of the Veterans Affairs domiciliary in White City appeared to be anything but rosy. The "Dom," as it was called locally, was on a federal hit list for possible closure and its aging buildings made it a likely victim of federal cutbacks in veterans programs.

What a difference a few years makes. In 2003, the Department of Veterans Affairs named the facility as one of 30 nationwide under consideration for closure or significant reduction in services. That was averted in 2004 after a strong show of community support and, on Saturday, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson came to White City to announce that the VA planned to expand and improve the 64-year-old facility.

Now called the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics, the center provides general medicine and mental health care to about 12,000 veterans in the Southern Oregon and Northern California region and has about 400 resident patients.

The proposed new work includes demolition of some of the original structures that were built to house soldiers in training during World War II. They will be replaced by new residential buildings that would allow SORCC to house 600 patients. A new clinic and other specialty care facilities also are on the drawing board.

The project is still in the "proposed" phase because it needs congressional approval of the funding. But given the presence of Nicholson in White City and the current climate of support for servicemen and women and veterans, that approval seems likely. Second District Congressman Greg Walden deserves a fair share of the credit for the effort to save and enhance SORCC. He was there in 2003, opposing plans to close it, and he was there Saturday when the improvement plans were announced. He recognizes it is a critical facility for the patients it serves and for the community that benefits from its $52 million annual budget.

Unfortunately, the war in Iraq promises to produce a new supply of veterans with rehabilitation needs. Fortunately, it appears the Dom will still be there to answer the call.

Business pitches inAndy Batzer was right on the money when he said, "We have an unlimited supply of kids." Batzer Construction Inc. is one of Medford's local businesses volunteering time and materials to Kids Unlimited's new gymnasium and kitchen/dining room project.

Kids Unlimited is currently providing programs for 1,000 children weekly in part of the old Medford Lanes bowling alley on Riverside Avenue. The new addition is expected to double that number. Having a gymnasium will end the need to search for an open basketball court. There will be a drop-in center for runaways and the kitchen will provide meals six days a week.

Projects like this and the support they receive from local businesses makes one proud to live in Medford. There is no stopping growth or change, so the obvious answer is to do our best as a community to keep up. Children must be at the top of the community's priority list if we intend to produce adults able to provide for their own futures.

Raising the standards for those in need is what companies like Batzer are striving for. All who have contributed their time and materials for the success of Kids Unlimited deserve our thanks for a job well done.