The Allen Bugbee Veterans’ Center in downtown Ripon held a soft opening this week allowing Congressman Jeff Denham to be part of the festivities while he was on a session break.
The facility is located at 201 South Stockton Avenue across from the Ripon Consolidated Fire Department. Denham presented the center with an American Flag that flew over the Pentagon on Veterans’ Day in 2013. He also provided the center with a computer, keyboard and printer that had been used by his Washington office staff that was replaced with a new computer recently.
A more formal ribbon cutting is being scheduled by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce for the entire community in the next few weeks, according to chamber President Tamra Spade.
Post Commander Ernie Tyhurst said the Ripon Post has been working on the idea of providing a place for returning military personnel to gather in comfort for the last couple of years and hoped they could find something in the downtown area.
The center on Stockton Avenue is directly across the street from the American Legion Hall that is often rented out to community when the Legion doesn’t have anything scheduled on their calendar.
Bugbee was a past commander of the Ripon Clinton McCausland American Legion Post 190. Bugbee along with his wife Fern were very involved in Legion activities some 40 years ago. Following his death in 1995 his wife reconstructed his trust giving an estimated $100,000 to the Ripon Post — $40,000 of that amount has been used in the construction of the veterans’ center.
The Bugbee home was located next to that of Clinton McCausland’s sisters, acting as their support until they passed away. The Bugbees didn’t have any children. Fern was very involved in music and was very proficient on her violin.
Past American Legion Commander Ken Lawson put it succinctly when he explained the reasoning for their $40,000 rehab of the former George’s Bike Shop.
“We expect to see a new generation of returning vets coming back from war needing to be in a family atmosphere and among friends,” he said.
Virginia Wimmer, San Joaquin County’s Veterans Service Officer was also present for the ceremonies. She is planning an upcoming dinner for the returning GI’s in Ripon.
Ripon’s is the only Veterans’ Service Center in San Joaquin County, she noted, that will be central to benefit workshops beginning later in the year that will also see case work being addressed.
The building has been completely refurbished from the restrooms to the lounge area with a large TV and reclining rocker recliners. There is also an up-to-date pool table and offices to the back of the building.
Past Commander Ken Lawson is part of Jeff Denham’s Veterans Committee and will serve as a liaison with regional Veterans Administration offices assigned to resolving veterans’ issues. The Ladies Auxiliary members have donated $500 toward the new flagpole outside the front of the building.
Commander Tyhurst said he hopes the opening of the service center might lead to other facilities opening throughout the county in the near future.