LA PLUME — There was an unusual buzz of activity for a Saturday morning, Oct. 1 at Keystone College as a group of volunteers worked to finish renovations to the school’s Elmer R. Hawk ’48 Center for Veterans in Alumni Hall.
The center received a $10,000 grant from the Student Veterans of America and The Home Depot Foundation for a number of improvements, including interior remodeling, improved fixtures, new flooring and enhanced handicapped accessibility. Members of the Keystone College Armed Forces Club worked alongside volunteers from the Dickson City and Wilkes-Barre Home Depot stores Saturday to finish the last phase of the project: installation of the flooring.
Mark Gowarty, club advisor, said prior to the start of the 2015 academic year, when the center first opened, the student veterans met in a 9-by-12-foot room. The college leadership felt the need to provide more room for the group, and Alumni Hall, which had a large amount of unused space, was the perfect fit. The group now has close to 1,600 square feet to call its own.
The center includes a main living room, kitchen, counseling office and bathroom.
“It’s a great space for them to hang out and study,” Gowarty said.
He explained the veteran student population is comprised of “not your average students,” because they’ve had the opportunity to gain “real world experiences.” The center provides an environment in which they can socialize with others who share in those experiences.
Dylan Welch, club president, referred to it as “a home away from home.”
Gowarty and Welch expressed gratitude toward the Home Depot volunteers and Liz Ratchford, grant writer, for their parts in the project.
“Without their help, our space wouldn’t look as nice as it does,” Gowarty said.
According to Joe Popowycz, Dickson City Home Depot store manager, the project fits right in with the company’s mission.
“Home Depot is committed to helping veterans organizations throughout the country,” he said, adding each store in the U.S. is required to complete one service project per year.
According to a Keystone College news release, the veterans center was initially made possible through a donation from the Hawk family, of Dunmore, in memory of the late Elmer R. Hawk, a business student at Keystone between 1947 and 1948. He later went on to join his brother in building the nationally known company Gertrude Hawk Chocolates.
The college itself was founded in 1868 to educate veterans returning from the Civil War.