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Volunteers needed during 'Demo Day' event Saturday

Gaston Gazette - 2/25/2020

An American flag hung from the front of a vacant home in northwest Gaston County on Monday, though it required some help due to being wrapped around its own pole by the wind.

That need for attention was symbolic of the larger scope of repairs that must be made to the vacant residence, if it is ever to become a haven for homeless veterans. And the next big step in an area nonprofit's effort to make that dream a reality will come Saturday, during an event being billed as Demo Day.

"Demo Day is indeed the first step in the renovation process," said Marine Corps and Vietnam War veteran Ivan "Bud" Strope, the president of the entity known as Camp Centurion. "We are hoping for a horde of volunteers. We need crowbars, sledgehammers, flat-nose shovels and other implements of mayhem and destruction, and most importantly, people to operate them."

Strope helped to found Camp Centurion based on a need he has seen for some time in this region. His aim is to provide supportive housing for male veterans in a secure environment that is structured and supervised, with a communal setting that will encourage fellowship and inspire men as they help one another achieve new goals. It will be known as the camp's Gaston Barracks.

"Our purpose is to help veterans with the spiritual wounds of war," he said. "It's difficult to minister to a veteran who doesn't have a place to live or a secure environment. Some have a place to live, but it's not a healthy environment."

A couple of years ago, Strope and his supporters identified a brick residence just north of Bessemer City as the place for the supportive housing center they envision. The 1,400-square-foot home at 2126 Bess Town Road was built in 1974 with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. But it has not been occupied for some seven years, and has deteriorated to the point that major renovations will be necessary to bring it up to code, make it livable, and enable it to serve as many as 11 veterans at a time.

That's what Demo Day will be all about this Saturday.

"Since it's being done with volunteers, it will cost nothing except for the cost of waste disposal," said Strope. "I believe we will have between 25 and 40 people helping out."

But they're still looking for everyone they can find to help, he said.

Come one, come all

Volunteers are being asked to bring their own gloves and tools, and to avoid confusion, to write their name on their equipment in indelible marker. Attendants should also bring, if possible, protective eyewear. Everyone will be asked to sign a liability waiver, and parents will sign for any underage children they bring.

Camp Centurion will supply disposable dust masks, since it has an official 501(c)3 status, volunteers can receive credit for community service hours they provide. The nonprofit can also issue receipts for "gifts in kind," such as donated items and services, Strope said.

Volunteers will also be treated to grilled hot dogs and chips, as well as hot coffee and other drinks.

"Some folks are planning on bringing their children and making it a family outing," Strope said.

Once Demo Day is completed, Camp Centurion will turn its attention to renovating both the main and lower levels of the home. That will involve building new walls, putting in a new HVAC system and new appliances in the kitchen, and installing new wiring, plumbing, fire and security systems throughout the whole building. The entire home will also get new furnishings.

On a bad note, it's going to end up being a much more financially demanding project then first anticipated, Strope said.

"Our estimate of $75,000 to $100,000 was made very early in the process, and after we received the estimates, it proved to be woefully underestimated," he said. "We now have a contractor (Greg Dimmer of Dimmer & Sons) and the current estimate is $200,000."

But Strope said he and others are determined to see the vision through to the end, starting with Saturday's big event. To date, 70 percent of the donations Camp Centurion has received have come from individual veterans and veterans organizations.

"This tells me that our local veterans are aware of this project and are committed to making it happen," he said. "I am proud of our area veterans."

You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or on Twitter @GazetteMike.

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