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On May 28, the Oceanside City Council unanimously approved a $600,000 matching grant to the Veterans Association of North County for the completion of a culinary arts training space at the former police headquarters on Mission Avenue. Approximately 80,000 veterans and active duty military reside in North County.

When the banquet room and kitchen are complete, the vets’ association will be the home for 37 service organizations, which currently operate in locations all over the county.

One of those groups, “Warrior Kitchen,” conducts a ten-week training program for culinary careers, operating out of Interfaith Community Services in Escondido; it will move to the new space when the project is completed.

“For services, veterans either have to go to San Diego or to Long Beach,” said Chuck Atkinson, president of the veterans’ association. “If they don’t have vehicles, they just don’t get there.”

Barbara Cogburn, former president of the Women Marines Association, said that the revamped facility will also serve the “new reality” of veterans’ services, which focuses on housing placement, mental health, medical services, and the needs of the female veteran population.

“By the end of the evening, 22 veterans will have killed themselves today. Our mission is to minimize this number,” Cogburn said. “Oceanside will become a one-stop shopping center for veterans’ resources.”

In 2007, the City of Oceanside leased the old police headquarters on Mission Avenue to the Veterans Association of North County, which they have converted (slowly, due to a lack of funding) into classrooms, meeting rooms, a gallery, and, soon, a lounge and the kitchen. In 2011, the association began using the space after they got enough money to construct a few offices, classrooms, and bathrooms.

Councilmembers said that because of the legacy of veterans in Oceanside, the money was a sure thing.

“Our diversity is due to veterans,” said deputy mayor Esther Sanchez. “Many veterans went to all corners of the world and brought home wives, who have contributed to this great diversity we have here.”

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