DEVENS -- Dan Purcell is planning a wellness center for veterans. He and sister Donna Bulger, along with her husband, Scott, are hoping to have a completed clinic within the existing structure at 84 Antietam St. by summer of 2019.
Clear Path for Veterans of New England is a 21,000-square-foot facility focused on a central mission.
The group closed on the property on July 11, and parts of the building are already operational.
The two-story building, plus full-sized basement, was built in 1931 on 2 1/2 acres and served as headquarters, then hospital, for Fort Devens. Governing body MassDevelopment has sought to sell many existing structures for re-purposing.
The trio saw the opportunity.
"We are looking to create a community approach to healing," she said. "By providing a place to stay away from the pressures and temptations that life offers, we allow for veterans to help each other. We want to unite people, not separate them."
Isolation is a major impediment to well-being, she said.
The heart of the facility will be the first floor, according to the working design. It an expansive kitchen where a full-time chef will prepare two meals per week, while providing vocational culinary training along with domestic nutritional and meal-prep skills for veterans and their families.
The second floor will be occupied by clinicians and therapy centers, whose rent will help provide long-term operational revenue.
There will be no membership or fees, and all veterans and their families will be welcome, Bulger said.
An equity loan will help Clear Path, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, complete renovations, including an elevator installation and plumbing upgrades. About 100 volunteers, across several industries, have pledged help, Bulger said.
One of those volunteers is fellow Ryan Fleming. He hosted the inaugural group meeting for his peers, and he spends his days painting the old walls and floors.
He said the space, including a 2,000-square-foot main parlor, will serve as a community center. The building will feature a dog-training area in the basement for aspiring service animals and handlers. A gym planned for the basement will focus more on functional movement than strength training. Also planned are a woodworking shop, a barber shop and plenty more space for whatever the clientele demands.
Bulger spent more than 20 years as a federal employee, mostly in logistics and materiel handling. Her brother is a defense contractor consultant and her husband is an executive in the insurance industry.
"We chose Devens," she said, "because the local demographics is veteran-dense."
Splayed out from the property is an array of adjacent amenities including tennis courts, hiking trails, Mirror Lake, softball fields and "plenty of open space." On the grounds will be raised gardens, a basketball court, parking and soft green lawns.
Clear Path will stage events throughout the year to help raise money, and always will accept donations.