GREENFIELD — A local nonprofit hopes to renovate the county’s nearly 100-year-old memorial building to make it more appealing to young veterans.
Members of the nonprofit Weir Cook Memorial Project, whose mission is to commemorate World War I flying ace and early aviation pioneer Col. Harvey Weir Cook, a Wilkinson native, while also honoring the sacrifices made by all Hoosier veterans, told county officials they envision two phases of improvement. Those changes will work to upgrade the building from the inside out.
President Christy Broady and member Art Ballard told the three-person board that oversees care of the Hancock County Memorial Building, 98 E. North St., they want to start fundraising efforts to renovate the exterior and interior of the building that served as the community’s first veterans memorial.
While the building has seen renovations over the years, it could use some updates, especially as it nears its 100th birthday, said Broady, asking for permission to launch fundraising efforts to pay for the project.
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The first phase would be to modernize the interior of the building by updating lighting, paint, flooring, furniture and storage. Phase II would focus on the building’s exterior, including repairing masonry and brick.
Broady said the organization would take the lead on the project by using its nonprofit status to apply for grants that could pay for the updates.
Her proposal comes on the heels of another building project, one of several aimed at making the building more comfortable for veterans.
Earlier this year, the veterans service office, housed on the building’s main floor, was renovated to make the office more private so service members could more openly discuss their needs.
Before that, county officials installed a chair lift in an effort to make the building more accessible to residents using wheelchairs.
By updating the memorial building, Broady hopes to better utilize the facility to educate children and families about aviation and military heroes.
Broady said she hopes the effort makes the building a better home for the county’s veterans and maintains the building’s original purpose.
In 1918, residents approached county officials about constructing a building for the county’s veterans. They wanted a space for them to gather and to rebuild their lives after coming home from war, according to history posted to the city of Greenfield’s website.
Greenfield Banking Co. donated the land at North and East streets to the effort. The project, a community-wide effort, cost about $100,000 at the time, and the building was dedicated on July 21, 1924. Some 2,000 people attended the ceremony, the website states.
For years, the building hosted events catering to veterans, but over time, it also became home to the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department and a smattering of other organizations.
Today, besides veterans service officer Bob Workman’s office, it also is home to Mental Health Partners of Hancock County, Families First, Court-Appointed Special Advocates and KidsPlay children’s theater.
Weir Cook organizers have already established a bank account at Greenfield Banking Co. for funds dedicated toward the memorial building project as well as the purchase of a mobile resource center to serve veterans.
Grant season is getting started, Broady said, and she has the opportunity to apply for at least $20,000.
The commissioners were supportive of Broady’s work, with commissioner Brad Armstrong saying they’d get her a copy of the county’s latest facility study that outlines some of the work that still needs to be completed for the group to follow.
“You’re a nonprofit, and you’re going to focus on updating that building. It would be tremendous for us,” he said.
Serving veterans and educating the public is the mission of her organization, she said. If she saves tax dollars by raising funds for a much-needed project, it would be an added bonus.
“This is what I’m here for. To help the veterans,” she said. “If it helps the county out, so be it. I’m here for all.”