Assisted living center provides longterm healthcare to veterans - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Improving veterans care in Savannah

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Angela Williams and Dr. Cristina Negrea believe they are on the path to improved veterans care in Savannah. They already know what it will it take to reach that goal.

"A lot of prayer and an awful lot of work,'' said Williams a nurse at Memorial Health University Medical Center. "But I think the biggest thing is going to be a lot of community involvement.''

It will take a community to build the community Williams has in mind, Serenity Gardens of Savannah, a 100-bed, state-of-the-art, long-term-care facility for local veterans.

Negrea, who is on the board for the project and would be the medical director of Serenity Gardens, says the assisted-living center would fill a void for an underserved segment of the community.

"It is definitely needed,'' said Negrea. "It has to be pulled off. I think with the military bases close by and so many military that are retired in savannah and settling in this area, the support should be there and we're hoping it will be.''

Williams has applied for grant money, is organizing fund-raising events and working toward non-profit status. She says every local official she has approached has offered their support.

But the impetus for the project is in numbers she found to be alarming.

"Doing the research, there are 22 million veterans here in Georgia alone,'' said Williams. "And, doing some more research, I found out there are only two V.A.-approved facilities. And if you take those statistics, seeing that over three million of our veterans are over the age of 65, two homes definitely cannot house a lot of them.''

Other numbers that jump out: The $1.3 million it will take to build the first 12-bed home here and the 10 months until Williams hopes to break ground.

But, Williams says, sometimes you have to go beyond the numbers, and the norm.

"As I grew in my career as a nurse, ,'' she said, "I decided that I wanted to do something different. It was always my aspiration to provide a better living opportunity for our elderly because they are such an intricate part, an important part, of our community. And I didn't want anybody to forget it, especially them.''

The first fund-raiser for Serenity Gardens of Savannah will be a half-century bike ride scheduled for May 17. Anyone interesting in riding, sponsoring a rider or volunteering should call 800.821.8753. 

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