Houston Fruge (R) presents checks from the PPG grant program to Burt Stigen (L) of the City of Refuge.

When Burt Stigen bought the old Shady Rest Motel on the closed Highway 90 section west of Vinton, he wanted to provide a home for homeless veterans. Stigen has done that and more. Over the years he has used his calling and training as a minister of the Gospel to reach the souls of the men that have stayed at the shelter as well as providing a roof over their heads. He has had success in both areas.

When he bought the old motel it had been closed for years. With the building of I-10 and the closing of the section of Highway 90 the motel was on, there was no need for a motel. It had been closed and was in need of repair when Stigen bought the property. Stigen operates totally on faith. His faith is that the money to run the shelter will be provided in some sort or fashion.

“We do not accept, nor do we solicit any sort of government funds. A lot of veterans have had all they wanted to do with the government and do not have any trust in the government. In addition, if we were to take any funds from the government we would have them telling us how to run our business and have a lot of rules and regulations to comply with,” said Stigen. “As it is, the Lord provides for us. We have rules that the residents have to follow to stay here and over the years we have done well.”

All but one of the old motel cabins have been demolished and replaced with log cabin type shelters for the residents. Each cabin has four bunks and a small air conditioner, TV with rabbit ears, and a handicapped bathroom. The cabins are fine and the residents are cared for. The thing that now needs to be addressed is the main building that houses the office, kitchen, dining area, and chapel. For about a year there has been a fundraising effort underway for the next step of the multi-stage project; a new main building.

There has been the creation of a board of directors to lead and set guidelines for the new main building. Fundraising has progressed, slowly but steadily. There is currently $33,000 in the building fund. This is about a fourth of the amount needed to construct the new building. The proposed building will be 40X100 feet in size and provide the needed space for the administrative needs, kitchen and dining, and chapel.

At the last board meeting, June 2, 2012, there was discussion of what needs to be done and ideas for fundraising, as well as some funds presented. American Legion member Houston “Bud” Fruge presented Stigen with two $1000 dollar checks. Fruge was able to take advantage of a program of PPG Industries whereby a retired employee who is a member of a board of directors of an organization such as the COR can apply for a grant. Fruge was able to get grants for 2011 and 2012 from the PPG program.

American Legion Post 49 of Orange is holding a raffle for a Brinkman Roadmaster BBQ grill. Tickets are currently being sold for the drawing to be held at the COR this coming July 4.
Members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association were in attendance and explained that the COR is the “adopted” charity for the CVMA of this region, Bravo Detachment. The motto of the CVMA is “Veterans helping Veterans” and the COR fits into the goals of the association. They are planning a rally and a drawing for a Model 1911 .45 caliber piston in the near future.

Retired Air Force veteran Gerritt Lawrence, owner of Webtronics in Westlake, La, near Lake Charles, reported that he is wanting to hire some of the residents of the COR to work with his recycling program. Lawrence is recycling used electronic equipment and can train the residents to run his recycling program as well as give them training in other phases of the computer business. “I would like to give the residents the opportunity to reenter the work force. Maybe in addition to giving them a place to live we can also work on rebuilding their self esteem as well, “said Lawrence?

The need to replace the old building gets greater as time goes by. Anyone that is able to make any donation of any type to the COR is asked to do so. In addition to money, the greatest need, there is also the need for heavy equipment to ready the work site, building materials that could either be donated or sold at a reduced cost, skilled labor from carpenters to plumbers and all crafts in between.

Stigen is a man who has dedicated his life to helping veterans in need. He purchased the property with his own funds and has spent thousands of hours, along with his wife, Denise, caring for those less fortunate than himself. He provides food and shelter for the homeless veterans, and also provides for their spiritual needs by functioning as a minister to them on a daily basis.

For information on how you can help the COR you may call: Gary Alford, 409-626-2525 or Stigen at: 337-598-3603 0r 337-589-6404