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Locals involved in Sauk Centre veterans project

Submitted photo Organic farmers Rachel and Seth Connell are among the Wadena area residents helping to set up the Eagle's Nest veterans' community in Sauk Centre. Growing vegetables is to be one of the therapeutic aspects of Eagle's Nest, which intends to help veterans dealing with PTSD and other invisible effects of war. Seth himself is an Iraq veteran.

Wadena area residents are playing instrumental roles in a national foundation's project to set up a Sauk Centre veterans community.

Organizers hope the Eagles Nest, on the 124-acre site of the former Minnesota Home School for Girls in Sauk Centre, will be open and ready to receive veterans by September.

Mike Weisser of Sauk Centre, vice president of the Patrick McCaffrey Foundation, said revamping the 22-building site as a therapeutic veterans community has been talked about for years, but the project was too expensive for a single organization to take on.

Now, he said, it is coming to fruition through grassroots efforts, with different services leasing individual buildings.

"We're going to own the land, and we're going to lease the buildings out to different organizations...that are going to board the veterans and provide the therapy," Weisser said

Melony Butler, a Wadena native living in Staples, is the program director for the Eagle's Nest project as well as the chair and director for the Eagle's Healing Nest, a separate project to be housed within the Eagle's Nest.

"The component of Eagle's Nest that I am working on is the Eagle's Healing Nest, which will give resources and treatment for the invisible wounds of war, such as PDI, PTSD, addiction, sexual trauma and that type of thing," she said.

Butler said she has contracted counselors to help with Eagle's Healing Nest, and she has been working on a degree in psychology.

"I made a promise to a Vietnam veteran many years ago that no veteran would ever cross my path that I wouldn't reach out to help," she said.

The Eagle's Healing Nest is to be housed in two of the buildings on the property, and there are still many other buildings.

Butler said each building will have some type of service for veterans, and organizations have the opportunity to go through the Patrick McCaffrey Foundation to offer resources to military members.

"We are building it one branch at a time," Butler said.

Tom Anderson of Wadena is also working on the Eagle's Healing Nest as treasurer and administrator.

Anderson, whose sons served in Iraq, said the project is important because 14 percent of homeless people are veterans, and Minnesota has the second highest suicide rate of veterans.

The project would have an emphasis on natural health, Anderson added.

Anderson and Weisser said the Eagles Nest grounds will offer organic farming, equine therapy and a homey atmosphere.

Seth and Rachel Connell of Wadena are organic farmers helping out with the agricultural aspect of the project. Seth is also an Iraq veteran.

Weisser said the Eagle's Nest is also in talks with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities about having real-time interactive TV college courses and hands-on, on-site courses as well.

Anderson said the Eagle's Healing Nest is in the process of asking for sponsors for rooms for veterans.

For more information on Eagle's Healing Nest, call Butler at 218-371-1570.