Mount Carmel: A Vision To Serve Our Veterans Realized

The Mount Carmel Veterans Services Center in Colorado Springs continues to expand it's services and the number of those who need help
Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-23 08:00:03-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Mount Carmel Veterans Services Center in Colorado Springs is an extension of the vision of Jay Cimino, President and CEO of Phil Long Dealerships, and his initial venture in 2006 in his hometown of Trinidad, the Mount Carmel Health, Wellness and Community Center. The man who now runs the Colorado Springs facility, Bob McLaughlin forged a post-military retirement passion to serve while in the Army, stationed at Fort Carson.

The Pikes Peak region is home to tens of thousands of military veterans from all branches of service who realized how wonderful this community is while serving and now call it home. McLaughlin retired as Garrison Commander on Fort Carson in 2014 and was approached by Jay Cimino prior to his retirement about the things he had helped implement on the Mountain Post to serve active duty soldiers and their families. McLaughlin told me in a recent interview, "And he (Cimino), basically gave me a challenge, what do you want to do with your life, do you want to help people or do you want to go out and seek your fame and fortune? I said, "yes", and he said you want to help".

And there was a huge void in Colorado Springs when it came to providing transitional services for our veterans and once again, Cimino, the quintessential salesman touched a nerve with McLaughlin, "And then, he said, you're going to raise your grandchildren here, we're going to do great things to help veterans and I thought he was crazy".

Crazy smart and visionary I say. McLaughlin was crystal clear on the concept and the mission, "Well, its all about resources right, and even when I was serving, I often said it would be great to have something more substantial in the community that isn't about referrals, its actually a place".

It's estimated that the number of veterans and their family members who are in need of services provided by Mount Carmel has grown about twenty percent every year for essentially the last decade, why?, nobody falls through the cracks is their mantra here, providing basic services like job placement, housing, financial services, learning to navigate Veterans Administration bureaucracy, and perhaps most important, behavioral health assistance.

McLaughlin says preventing suicide, homelessness, and domestic violence are priorities as well in trying to help build a strong community, together, "The thing I'm most proud of is we have amazing community partners that help us with services, most of the great foundations in the community help out because they see the value".

And those community partnerships are key, providing services comes at a financial cost, and for a nonprofit that can be problematic and was one of the initial concerns for McLaughlin, but once again, Cimino calmed those fears and his rationale makes sense, telling Bob, "And Jay said from his business acumen said, hey, look, don't worry about money, you focus on doing good work and the money will come.".

Nine going on ten years now the record speaks for itself, but they are not resting on their laurels, this is a resource-driven operation that must constantly monitor the needs of the community and adjust and adapt, that's where Jim Hannon, Chairman of the Mount Carmel Board of Directors and the entire Mount Carmel staff comes in, telling me, "So, yes, to some degree, we are looking at, Bob mostly, provides these ideas of things he wants to do, that he wants to expand the services here at Mount Carmel and we'll talk about these as a board and then we'll go through what the pros and cons are, is this the right time to do that, those kinds of things".

The Veterans Administration is an important partner and as you would imagine, veterans themselves make up a large portion of the staff here, uniquely qualified to deal with those people who are going through the same things they did when they transitioned out, the ability to connect quickly and in one centrally located facility, matters. McLaughlin says "I think keeping very qualified military members and their families in the community can continue to make us stronger".

Mount Carmel continues to grow with a new office in Pueblo with plans to expand beyond that, to the San Luis Valley and to other locations across Southern Colorado where there is a need.

Should you want to help support their mission you can donate here.