Just in time for Veterans Day, a resource center in Montebello that provides services to local veterans received a makeover this week as part of a $6,000 renovation grant from The Home Depot Foundation.
Home Depot volunteers were at The Hook Up in Montebello Monday to begin the renovations, which also calls for new furnishings. Montebello city commissioner and council member-elect Vivian Romero nominated the nonprofit group for the grant on behalf of the city. In addition to helping veterans, the resource center also provides services to students, the homeless and low-income families.
The grant will fund ceramic tile, a redo of the center’s electrical, a new air conditioning unit, new kitchen appliances and a fresh coat of paint.
It’s a “noticeable change” from when founder Esperanza Ortega and her husband William Valenzuela first opened the center in March 2012, when the walls were covered with donated paint and castoff furniture from the streets.
“We were in much need of the renovation,” said Valenzuela, a Marine Corps veteran himself. “We were looking to make our place more comfortable for our veterans.
Esperanza Ortega told EGP that before the renovation she would worry about clients tripping on the carpet that was just rolled out and taped at the edges, an upgrade from their initially painted floors.
“We are ecstatic about the renovation! When we first opened our center we had a budget for supplies and flooring wasn’t part of that,” she said. “One of our wishes was to one day have tile flooring.”
The Home Depot Foundation aims to improve homes and community facilities that help serve disadvantaged families and individuals. Since 2012, the foundation has focused on helping nonprofit organizations with financial support and volunteers in campaigns that directly impact veterans.
Although the center was opened up in response to The Occupy Movement to help out students and the homeless, the nonprofit recently shifted its focus to include veterans, said Ortega. Since The Hook Up opened, around 500 veterans have gone through their doors.
“There’s no place like this in Montebello, this place attracts a lot of veterans,” said Valenzuela.
Many, like Army veteran Juan Tarin, go to the center to get help filing claims, applying for benefits, or to get a ride to the Veterans Hospital or federal building in Westwood.
“The renovations will improve The Hook Up’s first impression to veterans,” Tarin said. “When the community sees the improvements on the outside they are more likely to want to stop by to find out what’s going on in the inside.”
The grant is a first for the nonprofit, which has operated without government funding and has offered its free services through donations from the community, volunteers, sponsors and money out of the couple’s pockets.
“Hopefully this leads to bigger and better things as far as funds and more clients,” said Valenzuela.
Although the grant and its upgrades will not generate money for the center, Valenzuela told EGP that it allows the couple to focus funding they already have in programs dedicated to veterans and students, rather than building improvements.
“With all the [new] renovations and supplies our center is ready for a new start,” said Ortega, explaining they can now start programs that had been put on hold.
About 30 or so veterans helped with the renovations, which are expected to be completed by Friday, in time for Veterans Day on Monday.
Two blocks away from the center at Montebello City Park, the Veterans Memorial, which was also renovated through a similar grant from The Home Depot Foundation, will be the location for the city’s Veterans Day Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m.
For more information about The Hook Up and the services they offer, call (323) 516-6382.