The chairman of the local GOP spoke, offering some heartfelt words about his own family, and the governor offered praise about what’s being done at Shepherd’s House, a transitional living facility for veterans just north of downtown.
But the newspaper reporters and television cameramen on Tuesday all wanted to speak to Barbara Cox.
"I am beyond excited," said Cox, the co-founder of the facility. "This is the best day in the history of Shepherd’s House."
What brought Steve Shine, head of the Allen County Republican Party, and Gov. Mike Pence to the front porch of the Tennessee Avenue former-hospital-turned-home was the unveiling of a new handicapped-accessible kitchen, full dining room and the completion of a serenity garden.
Those new amenities were just what the 17-year-old facility, which helps veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction, among other ailments, needed. And for so long, too.
"Seventeen years ago, we didn’t know how we were going to feed 15 people at a time," Cox said. "Now we’re feeding 50."
She did not have exact numbers, but Cox said she thought the additions cost about $300,000, 65 percent of which was paid for through a federal grant.
During a facility tour she gave The Journal Gazette two years ago, the kitchen was tight and shared a sink with the laundry room, while the dining area was sparse.
The serenity garden, where the veterans staying at the home would go for some quiet time or counselling sessions, was incomplete.
During an open house Tuesday, anyone who wanted to could catch a glimpse of the now sprawling serenity garden, complete with neatly trimmed shrubbery, statues and seats and tables.
The kitchen was remodeled and the dining area was decked out in Americana artwork.
Before people went inside, Shine offered his praise to Cox and her husband, Lonnie, the facility’s other founder, noting that a close family member had a life-threatening drug addiction that was stamped out with help from a rehabilitation facility.
Pence, for his part, has been touring the state for various reasons in recent weeks, including making the rounds to tout his newly created drug task force designed to help stem the heroin problem that has been sweeping across the nation.
"It’s a great day in Fort Wayne," Pence said. "This makes this an even more welcoming place for those who wore the uniform for our state and this nation."