STONINGTON — Fundraising efforts for the much-sought-after Stonington Veterans Memorial are nearing completion after the project received an $86,420 grant that will be funded with money from the American Rescue Plan Act from the city.
Finance council members on Wednesday night approved a request to reallocate funds, which were originally intended for HVAC upgrades at Stonington Human Services before the bids were deemed unworkable. The funding will now bring the project to less than $20,000 of the nearly $200,000 cost, with federal funding representing the only taxpayer money used.
“This was a crucial step for the success of our long-awaited project. We hope that members of the community will help us fill the remaining funding gap so that we can create this lasting tribute to those who have served and will serve our country,” first coach Danielle Chesebrough said Thursday morning.
Stacey Haskell, the Chesebrough administrative assistant who took the lead on the project, said there was still a lot of work to do, but with ARPA funding, the community can now embark on a path which could potentially lead to installation and unveiling. of the monument in late spring 2023.
In an email to supporters, Haskell said the veterans monument committee will now have to divide its attention between raising the roughly $20,000 still needed to complete all the work, as well as begin creating a set of criteria/ design guidelines that could be shared with local artists to promote the development of the art installation.
Volunteers will also have a booth at the upcoming Mystic Art Festival on August 13-14 – officials said last year’s event raised several thousand dollars – and work could begin on the site, located in the green space in front of Stonington Police. Department, starting this fall.
“Our goal is to have the ground cleared and the foundation in place by this Veterans Day and to have the monument completed by Memorial Day 2023 with our unveiling on Flag Day 2023,” Haskell said. .
For many veterans in the community, including Korean War veteran Anthony L. Lombardo, the monument is something local residents of Stonington and Pawcatuck have wanted for years. The concept was first introduced to the city in 2017 when Lombardo learned that Pawcatuck residents were ineligible to have their names added to the Western War Veterans Memorial.
After drawing attention to local veterans not being properly recognized, he found support from members of the Pawcatuck Fire Department and officials worked with Lombardo and Harley P. Chase veterans from the Post 1265 Foreign Wars to Pawcatuck to partner with purpose. to make the memorial a reality.
After issues with deed restrictions, a suitable home in front of the police department was identified in 2019 and fundraising efforts began.
The monument, which will be an eight-sided living granite memorial, will feature interactive elements, including a link to the names of the more than 7,000 residents who have served in the military since World War I. Names and other information, including biographies and videos will be available via technology within the monument by allowing visitors to scan a code with a mobile device, taking the individual to a dedicated site.
To date, the project has received 297 separate donations and received six grants. Under Haskell, there have been 19 fundraising and networking events since June 2021.
Although the pandemic conditions made fundraising difficult, the volunteers had already managed to raise a considerable sum for the project, which will cost $197,978 if the volunteers can complete the work within the current time frame. However, the clock keeps ticking and Chesebrough said volunteers will have to stay focused to find the last money needed.
The new funding, approved by ARPA, will be specifically used to fund work that would also provide jobs for members of the arts community. Lisa Konicki, president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, said the monument provides many benefits to the community, including veterans who would be honored.
“The $86,420 would pay for eight porcelain sides that will be placed on the monument as well as an allowance for the artist(s) who will design the artwork on the porcelain,” Konicki said in a letter to the Board of Finance. “This is an important aspect of the construction of the monument and deserves the financial support of ARPA.
“The sooner we can complete this project to honor our veterans, the better,” she said.