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EA school board accepting proposal vacant NV Twp. structure
A non-profit veterans organization had the winning bid for a former elementary school in North Versailles Twp.
Wellness for Veterans, located in Blairsville, must raise $615,000 or risk losing its opportunity to purchase the former Green Valley Elementary School at 3290 Crestview Drive, which was offered at public auction.
East Allegheny School Board this month accepted an offer from Wellness for Veterans. The group must deposit $20,000 to secure the sale and complete the transaction in 120 days, officials said.
Steve Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Wellness for Veterans, said he is feeling the pressure to come up with the money or lose the building.
Wellness for Veterans anticipates converting the building’s classrooms — each about 1,200 square feet — into 52 apartments that meet Americans for Disabilities Act requirements for handicapped accessibility.
Miller said that the school’s cafeteria will stay intact.
Wellness for Veterans helps people with service-connected injuries learn what benefits they’re entitled to, and how to apply for them. The services are free. Miller, an East Allegheny High School and Carnegie Mellon University alumnus, said he started the nonprofit because of his service-connected injuries, which earned him a Purple Heart.
“When I got out of the service, I had a lot of injuries myself, and I’m a pretty bright guy,” Miller said. “I mean, I did graduate from CMU. So I said to myself, if I’m having all these problems, imagine how many veterans are having these problems. So I just started reaching out.”
Miller currently meets with veterans at the American Legion’s office inside Pittsburgh’s federal building on Liberty Avenue. He said the location is convenient for obtaining forms and processing paperwork at the Veterans Administration office one floor above.
Veterans have received $700,000 a year in annual pensions and compensations for service-connected illnesses and over a half-million dollars in medical equipment through the organization, Miller said.
The facility at the vacant Green Valley School would provide housing, education, wellness and tools necessary to transition successfully from a military to a civilian world, he said.
The residents would learn to cook and serve themselves breakfast and lunch, while on the weekends, the organization would use the cafeteria as a hall for events such as weddings and receptions. A gym and weight room would be located inside the building, while outside would be a trail with exercise stations set up every 500 yards.
Renovations to the building are expected to approach $12 million project because remodeling will require the remediation of asbestos and lead paint in the building, Miller said, but added that raising the money to purchase the building is first and foremost on the group’s agenda.
Although the group currently accepts donations and sells apparel at its website, Miller said those contributions are used to provide counseling and employment services, and will not generate enough revenue to fund the building project.
He said he hopes that local elected officials like State Rep. Brandon Markosek, Monroeville Democrat who is on the legislature’s Veterans Affairs committee, and state Sens. Jay Costa and Jim Brewster, will help his group raise the money.
The group also will approach U.S. Sens. Bob Casey Jr. and John Fetterman to raise government funds, Miller said.
Dianne Ribecca is program director of Tube City Online Radio, host of the Consumer Review Report podcast, and a member of the board of directors of Tube City Community Media Inc. She may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published April 18, 2023.