FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A brand new office for veterans is up and running in its permanent home in Florence County.
The Florence County Veteran Affairs Office was under construction since August 2015 and officially is open for service. It is a $1.2 million project funded by the capital project penny sales tax Florence County voters passed.
Randy Godbolt, Florence County's veteran affairs officer, said before he took the job more than five years ago he had no idea about all of the services and resources available. Now, he wants the veterans to know the same thing.
"Now we have a permanent home and the word is going to get out, plus it's a nice facility and people don't mind coming by," Godbolt said. "I mean, before if you were a veteran and somebody said, 'Oh, you need to go to the courthouse and talk to someone,' you may have been a little hesitant going to the courthouse. If anything, curiosity of what the building looks like will make someone come in."
Godbolt said the new VA is a one-stop shop for veterans to receive help for things like filing their pension, filing for compensation, clinical counseling, VA home loans and even schooling. Representatives recommend coming to the office first before going to see a lawyer.
It can be hard to adapt to the civilian side for veterans, Godbolt explained, so the office is vital to have communication with one another in the community.
"Pension is a salary-based thing, so it's all about the amount of money you make and you can receive pension because the VA is not going to let their Veterans starve," he said
Sgt. A.A. Farley, with the Veterans Honor Guard, is now utilizing the VA office. He is thankful for the opportunity and information it offers.
"It just fills my heart for us to have this facility," Farley said. "We have been longing for it for a long time, all the honor guards, all of them."
He said the volunteer officers sometimes do two or three funerals in one day and work on standby, so they need a place to secure the rifles, ammo and other equipment in a safe place.
The energy and honor the VA affairs office gives to the community to further provide care is being shown through a future project that could be coming next to the Florence County Cemetery.
Godbolt explained it is a future nursing home that is funded and mandated by the South Carolina Department of Health. He credits Sen. Hugh Leatherman getting the legislature behind not just building one big nursing home, but instead three smaller ones throughout South Carolina.
"It would mean a lot to the elderly veterans in the area because as of right now, the closest one is in Orangeburg and it's booked. You can't get in," Godbolt said.
The need is here and the nursing home will house more than 100 veterans.
The Florence County Veteran Affairs Office encourages veterans and people from the public to attend the roundtable discussion meetings the fourth Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m. to hear about all of the resources.