Southern Tier Veteran Resource Center featuring Clear Path for Veterans to open in Fall 2020

Since the 1950s, the Vestal Hills Country Club has provided Binghamton area residents a respite from the everyday through an 18,000-square-foot banquet facility, tennis courts, a pool and a beautiful 18-hole golf course overlooking the Susquehanna Valley.

Starting in the fall of 2020, Broome County’s estimated 12,000 Veterans will find respite at that property as work is underway to convert it to a one-stop shop for Veterans programs and services.

Clear Path for Veterans sets up in Southern Tier

Clear Path for Veterans Southern Tier officially opened in Binghamton in December 2016. As an extension of its main facility in Chittenango, the Binghamton office offers a range of peer support services and is one of the Veterans resources that will be co-located at the former country club at 3115 Webb Road, Binghamton.

Peer Support Manager Venecia DeRoose, who directs Clear Path’s Southern Tier office, said Broome County has been very welcoming since day one.

“Broome County is a community who is about togetherness: How can we do this together? How can we help? It is all about the Veterans; and it is always encouraging. It has been a pleasure to work in Broome County. I don’t think I have ever had a time where I felt like I didn’t belong or Clear Path didn’t belong,” DeRoose said.

In addition to DeRoose, the Clear Path office is staffed by Peer Support Coordinator Jonathan Wanglund and Community Outreach Coordinator Katina Sinclair (all three are pictured above).

Although the county has been very welcoming to the team, the location – inside the Broome County Office Building at 60 Hawley St. in Binghamton – has been a challenge. Downtown parking and coordinating a location to host an event are just two of those challenges.

“Although we are in the same building with the county, a lot of people don’t even know that we are there, even some county employees,” DeRoose said.

“The new location aligns with Clear Path’s mission of offering programs in a safe and respectful environment. We’ll now be able to host events onsite, having a place where you don’t have to worry about parking. … Having co-located services, being able to help someone and walk them down to the VSO’s (Veterans Service Officer’s) office, doing a soft handoff. That will be great. We will have the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group, again being able to walk them down and do a soft handoff, being able to introduce them so that person is not going to three different locations to receive services. This again aligns with the Clear Path mission in reducing barriers to access programs that promote social connectivity, overall wellbeing and job readiness.”

The majority of the Veterans served will likely call Broome County home. However, similar to Clear Path for Veterans in Chittenango that draws Veterans from Watertown (a 90-minute drive) and beyond, the new Veterans Resource Center could also draw Veterans from Tioga County (an estimated population of 3,994 Veterans), and Pennsylvania’s nearest counties: Susquehanna County (3,280 Veterans) and Bradford (5,168). The former country club parcel sits approximately three miles from the Pennsylvania border.

About Southern Tier Director DeRoose

DeRoose is a U.S. Navy Veteran who served seven years active duty until March 2013. She served in Afghanistan with an Air Expeditionary Wing - U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and is one of the few recipients of its Commendation Medal, a unique distinction of meritorious achievement and service for a service member of the U.S. Navy.

Her first civilian job was as a relocation case manager with Catholic Charities of Onondaga County under a grant through the City of Syracuse. She then transitioned to the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Grant, which assists Veterans and their families with housing. In the fall 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced more than $300 million in grants under the SSVF program to help thousands of very low-income Veteran families across the nation.

While at Catholic Charities she connected with Clear Path for Veterans as it was used as a resource for Veterans. She also attended Clear Path’s Summit Group Meetings; the Summit Group is a network of community professionals and service providers dedicated to addressing the specific needs of Veterans, military members and their families through creative programs and services that enhance Veteran well-being, social and economic integration, and sustainment.

Her first day, “I remember it distinctly,” she said, was Nov. 12, 2014. She joined the staff in peer support and was assigned six counties, a swath of counties in the center of the state from Seneca to Madison counties. Wayne Stansel, a U.S. Navy SEAL Veteran and then Chief Operating Officer at Clear Path, approached DeRoose about spearheading operations in Broome County for a yet to be announced expansion for Clear Path.

“I was obviously a little bit hesitant because it was an hour-and-a-half commute for me, but I said I will do it for a couple of years. And I am still there,” she said with a smile. Initially, she was the sole staff member in the Southern Tier, performing peer support by connecting Veterans, outreach activities, and trying to better understand the needs of Veterans in the Southern Tier as they relate to Clear Path’s programs and services.

She – and by extension Clear Path – was warmly welcomed by the Veteran population.

“For us, peer support (was) the connecting factor. Just knowing no matter what branch, you served in the foundation for being a Veteran or being in the military is all the same. I think just having that initial connection, even though I am a female, I am a minority, that has never been a barrier at all. Just having that military culture is that niche,” she said.

Vestal Hills Country Club property a mirror image of Chittenango facility

Although the former country club needs renovation work, “landscaping, ADA compliance, kitchen renovation … ” DeRoose lists, she has no doubt that Broome County will put in the necessary work before the grand opening next year.

“This all started with the County Executive Jason Garnar being open and listening, being receptive, and having a vision for what this can be. The legislators approving the building – that was the beginning of something, something grand,” DeRoose said. “(That is the culmination of) the community coming together, and seeing how big of an impact this would be for the Veterans in the community. And this is what the Veterans want.”

DeRoose and likely other staff at Clear Path’s headquarters in Chittenango did a double-take when first visiting the former country club.

“When I first saw the building, it reminded me of Clear Path’s headquarters. It is almost a complete replica of this, so I know that it will be welcoming. There are a lot of trees; there are trails. It is serene. There is a great view, an outside deck if you want to sit outside and eat. It is outside of the town, so there is quiet; you can hear the animals, you can hear the birds. It is just really therapeutic, calming, relaxing and shows the community here in Broome County values its Veterans,” DeRoose said.

Clear Path for Veterans has a licensee located in Devens, Mass. This Broome County expansion, and a future expansion into the Hudson Valley, are providing Clear Path with key information as it drafts a model for a future roll-out nationwide.

“This is something that the community wants. And it is something that the Southern Tier has never had. This will bring in other – not just Veteran organizations – but also connect outside resources in one place. I believe this will be a national model,” DeRoose said. “This has a platform: OK, we did it in Madison and Onondaga counties, we did it in the Southern Tier. Who else wants us in their community, because this is working.”