Over the past three years, Saratoga County has seen its population of veterans grow. As our Matt Hunter reports, the agency tasked with serving them now has a new building to call home.
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. – More than 20 years removed from his time as a paratrooper with the Army's 52nd Airborne Division, Frank McClement spends his days helping fellow veterans take advantage of the benefits and services they're entitled to when they come home.
"Oftentimes, we see people in times of crisis, and they really need a helping hand and someone to guide them through the process," said McClement, a native of Waterford.
As the director of the Saratoga County Veterans' Service Agency, the issues he helps with range from the day-to-day to more severe.
"Homelessness, medical emergency, financial difficulties, death of a family member, a veteran in particular," McClement said Wednesday.
In what's been one of the state's fastest growing counties for decades, McClement says the local veterans’ population his risen as well, up to more than 18,000.
"We have a significant veterans’ population here in the county per capita, as compared to some of our neighbors and other counties in the state that have large military installations," he said.
To better serve the growing need, the agency moved to a new building on Route 50 in Ballston Spa earlier this fall. It now provides a dedicated space for its Peer Connection program, which pairs older vets with those just returning.
"They speak the same language and they can understand and relate to each other in the way other people can’t," said McClement, who added the county is also participating in a similar statewide program.
The agency used to be located a couple of miles away at the county’s services building. McClement is hopeful having a building of their own will make it more welcoming to vets.
“Being in the services building, there were certainly some positives to that, but it is nice to have our own identity and our own space and maybe offer a more welcoming environment to our veterans who have maybe been reluctant to come in in the first place,” McClement said.
As the Peer Connection and other programs grow, McClement believes the new space will help them better accomplish their mission.
"We care very much about the people that we see. It’s a good feeling when we can have a positive effect on their life," McClement said.