Simmons' Sporting Goods recently donated a check for $1,000 to help with the Fort Hero Veterans' Barracks renovations. Although business owner Jeff Simmons isn't a veteran, he felt called to help out with the cause.

The building being renovated is formerly a 45-bed nursing home that was donated to the Northeast Louisiana Veterans Association. The building was donated after having been closed for over eight years. Vandals had reportedly left the building in poor condition having removed all of the air conditioners, pipes, copper wiring and almost all of the fixtures in the building.

"People have been very generous," Roy Cook, retired Air Force and Vietnam veteran said, "but the building still needs a lot of work and we need a lot of help."

According to Cook, two doctors have pledged to donate their time and an area psychologist has offered a weekly visit. A Disabled American Veterans officer will be available one day a week to help veterans get the benefits they need. Local judges have also indicated they are willing to divert veterans to the program.

"When it's finished," Cook said, "it will be a full-service facility intended to help veterans and their families."

Cook added that veterans in need will be welcome as long as they are willing to get the help they need to get a job, get off drugs or alcohol or get training. Some could be in the facility three to four years while they go to school.

"There are lots of veterans who are either homeless or in need in the area," Cook said. "We just can't turn our backs on these brave men and women."

The association currently has two programs going on to raise money. They are selling rubber ducks for $5 apiece and plan to float them down the Ouachita River. The winning duck will be first duck to cross the finish line. The owner of the winning duck will receive $300. Second prize is $200 and third prize is $100. Organization members will also start selling bricks on Monday Oct. 7. Bricks will go down in front of the barracks and will be personalized with donators names.

Those who wish to help can send donations to the Northeast Louisiana Veterans Association at P.O. Box 903, West Monroe, La. 71294.