Melanie Kline, Welcome Home Montrose/Warrior’s Resource Center
by Kathryn R. Burke
[Montrose, Colo. Feb. 18, 2014] “It was a Sunday morning, I was watching television and I saw this video about wounded warriors returning home and how hard it was for them. I started thinking – what could we do to help them and their families. How could we create a bridge from military life to civilian life – integrate veterans and their families back into the community. What would it take?
“I got up of that couch energized with ideas!” Melanie Kline said.
After watching that program, Melanie realized that many of these men and women suffered not only physical wounds, but psychological wounds as well. Their suicide rate and divorce rate is unusually high, and assimilation back into their former lives is difficult, especially when they feel they are a burden to their families or can no longer follow their chosen career path. She began to think about possibilities: how – and were – to create a healthy environment for these veterans, where they would have jobs, health care, and community support.
One of the support systems the program mentioned was adaptive sports. When wounded warriors can no longer participate in normal physical activities, they can often excel in adaptive programs. They can swim, kayak, ski, and with help, engage in many other physical activities. And, Melanie had a “Eureka” moment. “Montrose! We have water, nearby-Teluride has adaptive ski programs, we have good weather and can provide good jobs. We have the small town feeling but with big town possibilities.” And, right then and there, the concept of Welcome Home Montrose was born.
It took two more years of research, creating awareness, and forming community partnerships. “People want to support those who served,” Melanie said. “They just didn’t know how.” So Melanie, and others who joined her in developing this program, started with focus groups, meeting at the Pavilion, exploring each area of need – health care, activities, jobs, service. As Welcome Home Montrose (WHM) evolved, and with it the Warrior Resource Center, Melanie discovered “a portal of giving like there never was before. It was magical!,” she said. “People want to support our veterans.”
More than 7400 veterans are registered with the VA. They reside throughout the area, which includes Ouray, San Miguel, San Juan, and Delta counties as well as Montrose. There are still a few from World War II, a few more from Korea, many from Vietnam, and now more coming every day from more recent military engagements. More than 500 have already registered with the WHM’s Warrior Resource Center (WRC), an all-volunteer entity, which helps the community understand the unique needs of veterans and their families. Through its vounteer staff, the center acts as a facilitator, fostering relationships with community providers for health care, counseling, adaptive sports and other physical activities, job placement, merchant discounts, and other services that target veterans and help form a bridge between military and civilian life.The physical facility provides office space, a computer lab, and a location for social activities.
With the help and determination of Melanie Kline and WRC director, Emily Smith, and a host of caring, dedicated volunteers, Welcome Home Montrose, a grassroots community initiative, is working diligently – and successfully – toward their goal of making Montrose, Colorado the most “veteran friendly” community in America.
Melanie sums up WHM long term goal: “We want to set the standard for other cities to follow in how to serve those who stepped up to serve all of us. By strengthening our services, identifying and filling our gaps, creating programs and removing the barriers in our infrastructure, we are preparing a place for our wounded warriors to visit and hopefully, to stay.”
Update: As of 2017, both Melanie Kline and Emily Smith have retired from Welcome Home Montrose. Emily is working with Melanie at Colorado High Grade Silver Studios in Montrose, Colo. The the WRC has changed its name to Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans and moved to a new location at 4 Hilcrest Plaza Way, Montrose, Co. Visit their website for more information.
‘Welcome Home Montrose Projects More Growth in 2014′. William Woody. The Watch. January 14, 2014
‘Montrose Recruits Veterans’ CPR, Eric Whitney
‘Welcome Home Montrose’ by Jared Bolhuis UTube Video.
‘Montrose wants to welcome vets home with more than a parade’By Nancy Lofholm, The Denver Post. Feb 22, 2012.
‘Welcome Home Montrose to welcome more wounded veterans’. By Nancy Lofholm. Denver Post. March 15, 2013.
This article also appears on website for the Woman’s Club of Ouray County. Designed and maintained by Kathryn R. Burke