Given the spirit of the season, it seemed appropriate that the New Richmond City Council chambers were filled with veterans and their family members along with city staff and representatives from T-Mobile to celebrate the donation of $50,000 to VFW Post 10818’s Freedom Park Center project on Thursday, Dec. 15.
"I support the VFW. I support our veterans. My vote is yes.”
The temperature is rising and so is the pace of work at Freedom Park.
If all goes according to plan, there should be a substantially completed, 17,400 sq. ft. facility, designed to serve veterans, seniors and youth, overlooking Hatfield Lake by the end of 2023.
There exists a photograph that includes two local veterans, Jim Remington and Jim Heebink, who had a vision for a “destination site” outside of downtown New Richmond that anyone could use for a mental health break from the stresses of everyday life. In the context of veterans, those stresses can be considerable. The two “Jims” rented a brush cutter and cut the predecessor to what would eventually become Freedom Park Trail.
Also in that photograph are Jim Zajkowski, Craig Kittel, Ron Volkert and Fred Horne. Zajkowski Kittel and Volkert were the three city council members who along with then Mayor Fred Horne voted in 2018 in favor of Freedom Park Center to keep the dream and the project alive.
St. Croix County is home to more than 5000 veterans and that number is only expected to grow.
Over the course of the last four summers, detachments of soldiers have set up camp in Freedom Park and worked side by side with local construction contractors who have volunteered to train them in various construction skills throughout the course of this project.
This training partnership is made possible through the Department of Defense's Innovative Readiness Training program (IRT) and is responsible for providing the labor to build Freedom Park Center, the largest such project ever attempted in Wisconsin.
The IRT program is the primary reason VFW Post 10818 New Richmond / St. Croix County was able to take on a project of the size and complexity of Freedom Park Center.
By the end of next summer, the Freedom Park Center project will have been responsible for the training of more than 1,000 soldiers.
On Thursday, Sept. 29, the Royal Credit Union Foundation made a $500,000 donation dedicated to the construction of Freedom Park Center.
“The RCU Foundation has a history of supporting community centers like Freedom Park Center. We recognize that having spaces in a community where people can come together to learn, to recreate, and to build connections is vital to fostering relationships and creating a vibrant community for everyone,” said John Sackett, RCU Foundation president.
The donation was the single largest donation to the project to date and will be used in conjunction with a number of additional donations to pay for building materials for the project.
“Every dollar of the RCU Foundation’s donation will be used to provide materials for the soldiers to complete Freedom Park Center,” explained Ken House, Chair of the Freedom Park Center building committee.
"The RCU Foundation saw how Freedom Park Center will be a valuable asset to the New Richmond community,” said Jim Zajkowski, Mayor of New Richmond and member of the Freedom Park Center planning committee. “They stepped up and believed in the project, which will benefit veterans, seniors and youth in our community. They hit a home run for New Richmond."