Please join us for the first ever Bay County Veteran's Warrior Challenge 5K Run/Walk! The event will take place on June 20, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. in Veteran's Memorial Park. Participation medals will be given to all contestants and there will awards for the winners of various categories. For more information, please see the attached flyer. Thank you for your continued support and we hope to see you there!
A multi-faceted entertainer, Craig Morgan has made a name for himself as a country music icon, TV personality, celebrated outdoorsman and patriotic Army veteran. One of country music's best-loved artists, Morgan has charted 25 songs on Billboard and thrills massive crowds with signature hits including “Bonfire,” Almost Home,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester,” “This Ole Boy,”Wake Up Loving You” and the fourweek #1, “That's What I Love About Sunday.”
Craig received one of country music's highest honors when he was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. Prior to becoming a country music star and TV sensation, Morgan spent seventeen years serving our country in the Army and Army Reserves.
Morgan remains an avid supporter of America's military personnel and has made 15 overseas trips to perform for our troops. He is a recipient of the 2006 USO Merit Award and in 2018 was awarded the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, one of the highest awards the Department of the Army can bestow upon a civilian, in recognition of his significant dedication to our military men and women around the world.
In 2017 Craig debuted The Gallery at Morgan Farms, a family-owned and operated farm-to-home business in his hometown of Dickson, TN. The store features a variety of artisan items handmade by Craig and his family and shoppers can also order his custom blended Old Tattoo Cabernet Sauvignon, in partnership with Lot18.com
From Route Bay City | By: Chelsey Rowley
Route Bay City had the opportunity to sit down with Keith Markstrom from the Bay Veterans Foundation to learn more about the organization, its mission and the organization’s newest project – an activity and makers' space for veterans in downtown Bay City.
Route: How did you come up with the idea to create the Bay Veterans Foundation?
When I returned from the Vietnam War, I had an extremely difficult time finding a job. With the difficult job market, I decided to go to college. I ended up receiving my degree at Central Michigan University. For many years, I worked as the director of the Bay Medical Foundation. It wasn’t until I retired from the Bay Medical Foundation in 2015 that I started to become more active in the veterans’ organizations across town.
Mike Jamrog and I were both Vietnam veterans. We also worked together for many years. In 2015, we worked with a group of other community members to create the Bay Veterans Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, to service veterans in the area. The board was created in the hopes of focusing efforts towards the development of a veteran’s activity center.
What is the goal behind creating the Veteran’s Activity Center?
Veterans are usually lost when they get out of the service. They’re used to disciple and regimented schedules. You come back into civilian life and you think everything is going to be the same. It doesn’t take long to realize that you’ve changed or your community has changed. Also, a lot of Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) don’t translate into civilian jobs. This can make the transition from the military workforce into the civilian workforce even more difficult. The goal of the activity center is to help ease this transition by creating a space for veterans – young and old – to find a sense of community.
When did you purchase the building, located at 1009 N Madison Avenue?
We purchased the building in 2018. We were lucky enough to be able to raise the $140,000 necessary to acquire the building.
What types of activities do you see being done in this space?
We’re still working out the programming and activities, but the building is 5,700 square feet. Ideally, we’d like for this building to serve as a space for veterans to congregate, to learn about the skilled trades, or to do hands-on makers activities – like woodworking.
Additionally, we would like the Veterans Activity Center to serve as a resource for veterans’ benefits. There are a lot of agencies that provide information regarding benefits and additional services, but they’re fragmented. We thought if we could get veterans to start coming here [to the Veterans’ Activity Center], then we can get agencies to come here and make presentations periodically. This would allow us to assist Veterans in a safe, comforting environment.
We also see our services expanding beyond the walls of the Activity Center. To date, we have also been in touch with the Boys and Girls Club about the potential to partner in a veterans mentorship program, which would allow our group to work with Boys and Girls Club kids to assemble birdhouses and other crafts.
Finally, we envision the Activity Center as a volunteer hub for assisting other veterans. If there are senior veterans who need help raking their leaves or getting their groceries, we would work with our member base to help provide that volunteer service.
How much do you anticipate fundraising for this type of project?
Our goal is to begin our capital fundraising campaign in the spring or summer of 2019. The goal is to raise about $500,000 to redevelop the space.
If community members want to get involved with the Veterans Activity Center, who do they contact?
If community members are interested in getting involved, they are encouraged to send us a message on our Facebook page.
Are there any other projects that the Bay Veterans Foundation has been a part of in town?
We’ve helped with the restoration of Battery Park after the Alice and Jack Wirt Library was built by raising approximately $160,000. In fact, we worked with Hershel Woody Williams, one of the last surviving Medal of Honor recipients of the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, to bring the Michigan Gold Star Families Memorial to Battery Park. In addition, we also manage the kiosk display in front of the Alice and Jack Wirt Library – which is currently displaying World War I artifacts.
From Mlive.com | By: Chris Ehrmann
Returning soldiers and veterans will soon have a place in Bay City to help them transition back to civilian life and a place to keep active during the day.
Keith Markstrom, a Vietnam veteran and president of the Bay Veterans Foundation, is working with his organization and others to establish a Veteran's Makers Space and Learning Center. The goal is to have a place where they can feel safe and be with others who understand what they have gone through.
The building, located at 1009 N. Madison Ave., also will allow veterans to make things like bird houses or do things like small engine repairs to help keep them busy.
Markstrom and Mike Jamrog, a former colleague and Vietnam veteran, said they helped to found the nonprofit organization in 2015 and, even though the veterans building was their first priority, they hit the ground running with other projects in downtown like redeveloping Battery Park and establishing the Michigan Gold Star Families Memorial in Bay City.
After those two events, they finally were able to get started on purchasing the 5,700-square-foot building and start renovating it.
"The idea is camaraderie," Markstrom said. "As I said when we got out of Vietnam, you went under cover, you couldn't get a job... some come back thinking that, 'Hey I'm gonna go back to my home life and everything's going to be the same' (but) the community's changed, they have changed."
Markstrom said if they can bring veterans in for care, it could help them in that transition period from coming back from war to civilian life and he feels the Veteran Affairs agency doesn't do much to help returning soldiers.
"These kids are confused, there's still confusion as we were. In 50 years, nothing's really changed (with the VA)," Jamrog said. "In my case, I had been up for 48 hours, I just got back from a very intense environment, the only thing I want to do is get the hell out of that uniform."
Markstrom echoed similar sentiments in that he didn't know he was eligible for his VA benefits until just before he retired.
At the building, which used to be a former warehouse, bird shop, where Wings and Things was located among other places, veterans will be able to talk with colleagues and do activities.
"We know there are homeless vets in the community, here's a place they can come during the daytime and do something," Markstrom said, adding that Bay County roughly has 7,300 to 7,800 veterans.
Markstrom said they have a lot of support, including organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Bay County Veterans Council, Bay City Commission, Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency among others.
Currently, they are working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which has authorized a $70,000 grant to remediate the parking lot -- which at one point had gas station pumps -- but they suggested to also test for asbestos in the building and, if there is, the grant limit might increase.
They are getting ready to renovate the building soon and have architects developing a floor plan because they will eventually gut most of the building.
"We're doing this all on volunteer effort (for cleaning up the building)," Markstrom said, adding that at some point they will have staff. "If we can get veterans in here who are having issues as well, it's gonna be easier to refer them for services."
From Mlive.com | By: Andrew Dodson
When Keith Markstrom formed the Bay Veterans Foundation in 2015, he had big dreams of opening a building where veterans could meet for camaraderie, obtain counseling and support, and receive some basic training in wood working and construction techniques.
The goal would be to get enough vets trained and put them to work in the community.
Before that project could became a reality, though, Markstrom needed to prove his group was serious. So, in a little over two years, they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring Battery Park back to life and installed a monument there honoring Gold Star Families, the first of its kind in Michigan. They also launched a Veterans Support Group held monthly at the Dow Bay Area Family Y.
"We needed to establish a track record and I think we did that in a short period of time," Markstrom said. "I think people now see us as a credible organization."
Now, it's time to get to work. Again.
Markstom and the Bay Veterans Foundation officially kicks off its capital campaign for the activity center on Saturday, Feb. 10, at the State Theatre with its Red White and Brew Revue, a night of music by singer-songwriters Jennifer Naegele, Laurie Spear, Sarah Schingeck and Amanda Jane Beson. The event, which kicks off at 7 p.m., is focused on recognizing women veterans.
Tickets for the general public are $15. Male veterans pay $5; women veterans get in for free. After the concert, a social gathering is being held at Tri-City Brewing Co., 4170 Shrestha Drive. A $1 from every pint sold is being donated toward the veterans center.
Bay County is home to about 8,400 veterans, according to the U.S. Census' five-year rolling average from 2011 to 2015, which makes up about 10 percent of the adult population. Of those veterans, 52 percent are 65 or older; 6 percent are 18 to 34. Bay County has one of the highest amount of veterans per capita in the entire state.
The activity center won't feature a bar, like the various service organizations across Bay City. And it won't just be a place where veterans come for a cup of coffee and tell old war stories.
Markstrom describes it as a "makers space," where there will be shop equipment, hand tools and table-top CNC machines.
"They're going to learn not just how to use a handsaw or a hammer," he said. "We want to introduce them to something they would never take on themselves."
Markstrom's vision for the center snowballs as he continues to describe it.
Once a handful of veterans are trained, he said, he wants to see them fix up homes that are owned by the Bay County Land Bank and ready them for sale.
"We could have this amazing synergy that's helping our veterans and helping our community," he said.
The foundation is looking for a building between 5,000- and 6,000-square-feet. The group has already received some in-kind donations of tools, but estimates it's going to need about $150,000 to acquire a building, secure insurance and make necessary renovations.
Bay County Executive Jim Barcia said he's in favor of creating a new Department of Veterans Affairs at the county, which could provide funds for the veterans center.
"I think it's a great opportunity to utilize the talents of many of our veterans," Barcia said. "Some of these guys may be retired skilled tradesmen, others may need to acquire new skills to enter the job market. It seems like a perfect way to support our veterans in Bay County."
Markstrom doesn't see the veterans center as a replacement for other veteran services offered throughout the county. The Bay County Veteran's Affairs office, for instance, provides information, referrals and support services for honorably discharged veterans and their families and aims to help those people walk through the red tape of benefits. And the Soldier's and Sailors Relief Commission provides emergency assistance to veterans and their eligible dependents.
"We're not replacing those services, but we want to be a connector for all of these things," he said. "We also have a lot of nonprofits locally that content they have veterans program, but it's hard to know how much is in their budget or what they're really doing. If we can help provide a more efficient use of their dollars, that would be a really great thing."
The foundation also anticipates securing funding to pay a manager for the center who would coordinate programs.
To date, Markstrom said he has received a $1,000 check for the center from Goodwill and has verbal pledges from other businesses.
On Saturday April 29, 2017, Gold Star families, local dignitaries, community leaders, and military service members joined the Michigan Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee at Battery Park in downtown Bay City to break ground for a new memorial monument dedicated to all Gold Star families.
Gold Star families are the families of a loved one who gave their life to protect our freedom and to give freedom to many who have never experienced it. Those Gold Star families have rarely been given the recognition and honor they deserve for their sacrifices and suffering in keeping America free.
America has numerous memorials and monuments which pay tribute to those who have faithfully served in our Armed Forces since becoming a Nation. Many honor the patriots who have given their lives for our freedom.
But America has citizens in every community and hamlet who are family members of someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice while in the service of their country. The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will honor those families who have given more than most of us, illustrating that these families suffer and grieve dearly when a relative is lost while in the service of our country. Without their sacrifices, freedom could not and would not have been preserved.
Plans call for a state-wide fund raising campaign to raise the estimated $75,000-$80,000 required for site preparation, black granite monument, and to establish a maintenance fund.
This memorial monument is being developed in cooperation between The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation and the Bay Veterans Foundation. Dedication is planned for September 30, 2017.