The General Wayne A Downing Home for Veterans in Peoria is getting five new residents.
Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois cut the ribbon today on a new wing, called the Wing of Hope. It’s named after a deceased Vietnam veteran, Thomas Hope. Members of the Hope family traveled from California and Florida to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony. They say their brother lived a quiet, isolated life after returning from Vietnam but was dedicated to serving others.
“Like many others who return from war, he is a quiet man, and he felt that he didn’t have a home to come home to, or a community that cared,” Steve Hope, his brother said.
Steve Hope is a retired Navy veteran and Goodwill board member who helped secure funding for the expansion. Hope directly addressed other soldiers gathered at the ceremony, saying he hopes the home offers them the brotherhood and camaraderie unique to the military.
“Nothing can dilute the fact that each of you is my brother. I hope this home will be witness of the new beginnings, and provide a conduit of guidance and education that allows you to have a full and rewarding life,” Hope said.
58-year-old Todd Boyd is a current resident. He’s a Danville native and served three years in Navy, finishing his service as a 2nd Class Petty officer. After the military, he worked in a factory in Hopkinsville, Ky. but was laid off and couldn’t find work. His family in Central Illinois urged him to contact a social service agency in Peoria.
Boyd says it was “a miracle” when he landed the housing option nine months ago.
“One man had just moved out, and I was so lucky to get this room,” Boyd said. “No, it not coincidental. God had his hand on me the whole way.”
Following the ribbon cutting, Boyd welcomed visitors touring the facility into his dorm-like room. It’s minimally decorated with an American flag and a throw pillow, stitched with the US Navy emblem. His boots are neatly arranged on a shoe rack in the corner.
"I've traveled all over the country, and there is no place like this," Boyd said. "We're family here. My buddies are here, and I can't wait to meet the new guys."
Boyd, who was previously homeless and unemployed, now works in a salaried position as an on-the-job training counselor for Goodwill. He assists employers seeking to hire veterans. He also helps identify and address challenges that impede certain veterans from securing a job by providing services, such as psychiatric support or occupational skills training.
The Department of Labor last month awarded a $230,000 grant to Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois to support those services.
The Goodwill General Wayne A. Downing Home for Veterans, at 403 S. Olive St., opened in 2005. The home is financed through a federal Housing and Urban Development Grant (HUD), a State of Illinois Grant and Goodwill Funding, as well as contributions from private and corporate donors.
Goodwill says tenants are expected to start moving in tomorrow, bringing the total number of residents to 15.