Golden Isles Veterans’ Village
July 2021 Issue
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Nancy J. Reynolds Photography
Members of the Golden Isles Veterans’ Village Initiative, LLC (GIVVI), hope to have the first five tiny homes completed in the community in Downtown Brunswick by July 31, 2021. The site, located at G Street, between MLK and Amherst, will eventually be home to 30 tiny dwellings, along with a community center and a hydroponic gardening center, according to Margaret Jacobs, chair of the GIVVI.
While living in the Village, veterans will not only have a place to call home, but will also receive any medical and mental health services and any training for jobs or other skills, like cooking, that they need. “We formed our LLC in 2019, and everyone was unanimous in supporting building the village in Downtown Brunswick,” Margaret said. The project is modeled after the Cove at Dundee community in Savannah. “We have the advantage of having all of their information and knowing what worked and didn’t work for them.”
Honey Sparre, who is also on the GIVVI Board, as well as the boards of Family Connections and Coastal Community Health Services and is director of Homeless Services with Faithworks, has worked with the local homeless population for more than 10 years and sees the establishment of the Village as a step in the right direction. “A lot of our veterans are too proud to show up at The Well (Faithworks’ homeless day shelter) or Salvation Army because they see it as a free hand-out. Since this is an independent project just of veterans, we hope this will be a steppingstone they need to bring them out of the woods and encampments,” said Honey. As the wife, daughter and granddaughter of veterans, helping homeless veterans heal and rejoin society holds a special place in her heart.
GIVVI is a place for homeless vets to get a helping hand to get back on their feet. Honey calls it “a hand up, not a handout. All applicants will go through a thorough screening process and will sign a lease and pay rent. We say the contract is for a year, but it could be up to three years. We will stipulate that we will come by to visit you in your tiny house once a month to see how you are doing. We are looking at about $275 a month, which will cover internet, water/sewer, electricity, the community center and hiring a director.”
Each tiny home has a living/bedroom space with a platform bed with drawer storage, a small kitchen with refrigerator, sink, counter space, a convection cooking unit and microwave, and a bathroom with door, shower, sink and toilet. The eventual community center will contain a laundry, small seating area, office space and several interview/counseling rooms. Also onsite will be an Aquaponics Center, where residents will be taught hydroponic gardening. There will be outdoor grills, benches, tables and gardens. It will be a true community, and area folks are already coming together to make that happen.
Margaret says, “The community has been phenomenal. The Village will be 100 percent volunteer built. A & B Electric is doing all the electric for us, and Gene Charlotte and Scott Hall are our volunteer plumbers. They are all doing work for us after their regular working hours. Bill Gross, a licensed contractor, is providing oversight and is phenomenal. We are also partnered with Coastal Pines and other local groups. Nine Line is providing the tiny homes’ shells. A-1 Mobil is paying for the concrete and the mesh. We’ve gotten donations from Interstate Credit Union, South Coast Bank, Coldwell Banker and more. Southeastern Bank has been a Godsend—they let our Board use their conference room. The Junior ROTC from Glynn Academy came out to help us finish cleaning the lot, and they want to come back to visit with residents after they move in.
“We have been so blessed with this project. The man who cleared the land (Mike Woodard), which hadn’t been touched in 20 years, grew up in the neighborhood and volunteered to clean it.” Kaitlyn Frisk, Miss Empire of the South’s Outstanding Teen, chose helping veterans for her platform and has been raising money and helping with the project any way she can. Existing organizations near the Village site are providing services to bridge the gap until the project is completed. Manna House, across the street from the site, will feed residents until they can cook on their own, and Housing Development is providing a gardening space until the Aquaponic Center can be completed.
Margaret said this project is particularly special for her. “My brother was a Vietnam vet who was not okay when he came home. It took him about 10 years to get okay. Without our (his family’s) love and support, he could be one of those homeless vets,” she said, shaking her head. “This is a passion project for all of us. We want to help these veterans get back to the dignity they had when they served us.”
How Can You Help? While more than $60,000 has been raised, total costs for the Village are projected to exceed $799,000. Donations can be made at www.goldenislesveteransvillage.org, the Golden Isles Veterans Village Initiative, Inc. Facebook page or mailed to James Vivenzio, P.O. Box 1884, Brunswick GA, 31521, with checks made out to GIVVI. There is an Amazon wish list, if you would prefer to purchase needed items directly: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/34XE8XNTOB4XW?ref_=wl_share
For more information on volunteer opportunities,
visit them online or call (912) 271-6575.
Pictured top, left to righ: Margaret Jacobs, Honey Sparre, Miss Empire of the South’s Outstanding Teen Kaitlyn Frisk, Cherise Cartwright stand on the future site of GIVVI in front of containers holding the shells of the tiny homes.