MASSENA A swank riverside home has been converted into a retreat for injured soldiers who are arriving from around the country.
The house, with an assessed value of $525,000, is owned by Operation Grateful Nation, a national charity based in Conroe, Texas, that provides mentoring, training and career placement for disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The charity was founded by John and Rena Wing, formerly of Massena and now residing in Texas. The Wings were unavailable for comment Monday.
The couple transferred ownership of their home at 407 Route 131 to the charity late last year. The riverside property was renamed Base Camp Serenity, and has served as a retreat for wounded soldiers ever since.
It did not take them long at all for word to get out and people to start staying there, Operation Grateful Nation spokeswoman Lindsay S. Ashmore said.
With a swimming pool, whirlpool spa and pontoon boat, the house is prepared to provide a year-round getaway to soldiers and their families, with boating in the summer and hunting in the fall and winter.
Robert J. Giordano, chairman of Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, handles the local side of the charity, booking the house for soldiers and their families and providing them with tours of the St. Lawrence River.
The operation of the home and the activities of Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures are funded by donations.
Veterans have been staying at the house sporadically since 2011, but it has been part of Operation Grateful Nation only since early this year. Word of free vacations for soldiers and their families is spreading quickly.
Right now its just word of mouth, and were pretty booked up for the next several months, Ms. Ashmore said.
Soldiers are allowed up to five-day stays, and can come twice a year, depending on how full the schedule is.
The charity has big plans for Base Camp Serenitys first official summer.
Soldiers will stay at the house when the Bassmasters Elite fishing tournament comes to the area in August, and one will win a fully equipped fishing kayak.
Injured Army Rangers from Washington state will be staying at the home throughout the summer.
Mr. Giordano said he especially wants to reach out to veterans who may have fallen through the cracks, who do not or cannot partake in some of the other services offered to veterans.
Its supposed to be an escape for our service men and women to relax and enjoy themselves on the waterfront. And its absolutely no cost for them, he said.