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New veterans’ home opens with Hope for Tomorrow

Members Fox Valley Marines including Chuck Johns(left) Marlis Marrello Al Scott (right) raise flag as Hope for Tomorrow introduced its

Members of the Fox Valley Marines, including Chuck Johnson (left), Marlis Marrello and Al Scott (right) raise the flag as Hope for Tomorrow introduced its newest home on Lake Street in Aurora for veterans struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues during an open house on Friday, December 7, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Help for hope

Although the new Hope for Tomorrow home on Lake Street is open, the organization is still looking for donations. The men who will live in Hope For Tomorrow’s newest home will pay only $22 a day, and nobody will be turned away for inability to pay.

They are also looking for contributions to help purchase a front-loading washer and dryer for the home’s ADA-accessible area.

For information on how to donate, visit the Hope For Tomorrow website at

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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:21AM

AURORA — Around this time last year, the house at 469 N. Lake St. was empty — dark and cold, covered in construction debris and dust, and stripped to the studs.

The 1857 home had a long history serving the community. AA meetings were once held in the basement, Opportunity House once served the disabled population there.

And now, after two years of fundraising and rehab work, the home will house Hope For Tomorrow’s newest home for returning military veterans.

“Important in all of our hearts is the recognition that there should never, ever be a homeless veteran,” said Hope For Tomorrow Executive Director Jeff Gilbert, addressing a crowd of veterans and their supporters at the home’s ribbon cutting ceremony Friday. “This really is a great day for the city and for its veterans.”

The new Hope for Tomorrow home will house 16 returning veterans, and includes first-floor living space for one disabled resident. Returning vets in Hope For Tomorrow’s program will receive counseling and treatment for addiction or mental illness.

“This is Dec. 7, and as FDR said, it is a day that will live in infamy,” said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, after cutting the red, white and blue ribbon tied to the home’s front entrance. “But today, Dec. 7, 2012, is a day of pride for Aurora and literally a day of hope for tomorrow... This home is hope that as we go forward we’ll turn our attention as a nation to the needs of our veterans.”

Weisner was joined by State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and State Rep.-elect Stephanie Kifowit, both military veterans, and Erica Borggren, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Borggren said the new home is important in helping the state’s goal of filling gaps in the support systems that exist for veterans.

“The community involvement here is impressive,” Borggren said. “That’s really what it takes.”

Nearly three dozens organizations, from veterans’ groups to local unions — along with countless individuals, tradesmen, apprentices, students and volunteers — helped make the new home a reality.

Volunteers demolished much of the interior, bringing the home down to the studs; Waubonsee Community College students helped work on the building’s HVAC system; and contractors spent hours of their own time repairing, rewiring and refinishing the 150-year old home.

The city of Aurora purchased the building for Hope For Tomorrow for roughly $450,000, and the state granted the organization $100,000 through its Veterans Cash scratch-off Lottery ticket.

Meanwhile, local veterans organization, including the Fox Valley Marine Corps and Batavia VFW held fundraisers and donated time.

Now that the home is finished, Hope For Tomorrow will slowly begin moving in veterans. Gilbert said many residents have already been identified in treatment facilities or through the Veterans Administration, and he expects the home to be full by mid-January.

And the home is ready, with flatware in the drawers, blankets on the bunks, a warm granite fireplace, oak staircase and light green paint on the walls.

“We wanted something that wasn’t pink and frilly, but still had a soothing effect,” said Gilbert.

Outside, a POW flag hangs from the front porch, an American flag — raised Friday morning by Fox Valley Marines — waves at the house’s front entrance.

At its base, a plaque reads, “May we always be humbly grateful to those brave American patriots who suffered and sacrificed for the glory of God and the freedom of all Americans.”

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