Kenneth L. Hardin: Giving thanks for the Veterans Social Center

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 27, 2022

SALISBURY — “I want to thank you for never making me feel like a nobody when I’m here.” A Vietnam veteran attendee of the Veterans Social Center made that statement to me. The seven month old facility is located in the heart of the West End Plaza after getting unanimous approval from the Rowan County Commission. He’s not the only one who’s expressed appreciation for what the Center offers mentally and emotionally to those who’ve worn the uniform. An Iraq War Veteran, who refuses to discuss any details of his Military exploits because of his struggles with severe PTSD, praised the Center also, “I don’t know if you realize how much this place means to me. It has saved my life.”

We’re not doing anything unique or extraordinary, just what the name reads. We’re a place where men and women who’ve served can come and enjoy socialization, great conversation, laughter and the level of camaraderie we all grew accustomed to while on active duty. We recognize not all Veterans have a stable home or family, so we’re fully present and engaged at all times. We show our Veterans an enormous amount of compassion and try to meet all their needs where they are at this point in their lives. Like any other population, Veterans want to have their voices heard and be recognized for the sacrifices they made volunteering to serve and protect this Country. Many of the brave men and women left home at young ages and matured into adulthood on the flight deck of a ship, in the jungles of an Asian Country or in the sweltering heat of a Middle Eastern desert. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for an 18 year old to sign up for possible death or a physically, emotionally or psychologically shattered life long term.

The Center is staffed with seven female Volunteers, who are either the retired mother, grandmother, sibling or spouses of Veterans, along with an Army and Air Force male Veteran. They ensure the Center functions effectively, and take care of all the beautiful aesthetics. Fresh cut flowers adorn the interior and mix lovingly with multicolored balloons as each dances in sync with military memorabilia throughout. Their nurturing nature is always on display and continually manifests in wonderful ways with the Veterans whether it’s through a listening ear or a challenging game of ping-pong..

On Saturday afternoons, every Veteran in the Center is provided a full sit down meal. We typically host 25 Veterans each week with some weekends the number swelling to 40. If you’re watching your weight, this is not the place to be on Saturdays because we go hard with the sweet treats. The Volunteers prepare the meals in their home kitchens using many of their favorite recipes and dishes. At other times, the generosity of individuals and businesses have been a blessing to us. The Jake Alexander Blvd Pizza Hut has been an angel on several occasions. Matt Marsh, owner of the Forum Fitness Center, joined the Smoke Pit owner, Jeremy Beaver, and provided us with a brisket and pulled chicken dinner feast. They catered large pans that also included mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni & cheese and bread. Sweet treats are always available as Veterans or a non-connected Military supporter will walk in with cookies, cakes, pies, brownies or other sinful delights. Some of the other homemade lunch cuisine has included chili beans, vegetable beef soup, spaghetti, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, taco soup, shrimp mac & cheese, chicken wings, and an assortment of vegetables to give the illusion we’re trying to be healthy.

So many kind people from businesses, politicians, and on down to housewives have ensured there’s always chips, crackers, microwave popcorn, cookies, beef jerky, candy, soft drinks, water, and ice cream available free of charge for all Veterans who spend time in the Center. N.C. State Senator, Carl Ford, had six cases of Cheerwine and water delivered. Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce is a frequent donor of snacks, food and financial aid. The Powles-Staton Funeral Home rolled in a dolly load of sodas and snacks. Former Rowan County Register of Deeds, Bobbie Earnhardt, has been a consistently strong financial supporter, Her funds, along with former Salisbury resident, Ashley Safrit-Keppel, who now lives in Colorado, are used to allow us to continue to offer the Center, meals and recreational activities free of charge. We’ve received donations from other generous supporters, who believe in our Mission, extending from Las Vegas, Alabama, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Georgia and all corners of N.C.

Our goal at the Veterans Social Center is simple. We believe that no one should have to laugh, cry, eat or ever be alone. Mission accomplished!

Kenneth L. “Kenny” Hardin is the Founder of the Veterans Social Center. If you would like more information or to make a tax deductible donation, go to

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