The Mountain View Timberland Library in Randle celebrated the grand opening of its Veteran Connection Cafe, the first in the state, on Tuesday morning. 

The Veteran Connection Cafe is a program that will provide various services to veterans in the rural community of Randle. Veterans can set up an appointment to receive professional assistance with healthcare, pensions, lawyers, and other benefits. The services can be utilized by veterans’ spouses and family members. 

The Timberland Regional Library teamed up with WestCare, a nonprofit organization that “provides quality health and human services for individuals, families and communities in need.” The project also received support from Operation Military Families, American Legion Post 94, Lacey Veterans Services Hub and Home Depot. 

Donald Lachman, coordinator of special projects

at WestCare said, “We want to create sustainability and create vital hubs within the community,” he said. 

Lachman said veterans living in rural and more isolated areas have a much more difficult time receiving benefits and meeting with those who can help. The Veterans Connection Cafe bridges the gap by creating a location at the library where veterans can talk via video chat on iPads to professionals who can help with anything the veteran may need. The iPad is mounted on a stand that can be controlled by the person on the other end, enabling them to rotate the iPad and look around the room. Documents can be easily pulled up on the screen and shared with the veteran. 

At the Mountain View Library in Randle, a trained employee is on hand to make appointments with veterans every other Tuesday. The video call is then coordinated with whomever is needed on the other end. It is the hope that other libraries in the state follow in the footsteps of the Mountain View Library and make it easier for veterans living in rural areas to receive services. 

Lachman emphasised the convenience of the Veteran Connection Cafe and said that the veterans who live in Randle had to drive over an hour to Chehalis/Centralia area in order to get services. It is also common for a veteran to require a meeting with a lawyer, my of which are located in Seattle, making it difficult for a vetern in a rural area to meet with someone who can help them. The program is compliant with health privacy laws and will keep all of the veterans’ information private and secure. All the data that is exchanged will be encrypted. 

“The disparity between rural and urban is significant,” said Lachman, when talking about the resources available for veterans in Randle and similar places similar. In rural and isolated locations the technology and the services can be used with cellular data if the veteran does not have access to wifi. 

Cheryl Heywood, director of Timberland Regional Library,  attended the grand opening and was available to answer any questions.

“This five-county region (including Lewis County) has the highest number of veterans compared to the rest of the state and to the rest of the nation. So this is a really big deal,” said Heywood when speaking about the Veteran Connection Cafe project.

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