Veterans break ground, break bread in Saguache


Photo by Patrick Shea Terry Gillette helped Eve Braden officially break ground at the Valley to Valley Senior Care Center construction project on Nov. 11, a four-phase plan to provide day-visit services, apartments, and assisted living a mile north of Saguache. During the Veterans Day presentation and chili feast at the Saguache Community Center on Nov. 11, Eve Braden received a plaque from the Marquis Who’s Who Publications Board selection for 2022–2023 in recognition for her work launching the Senior Care Centers in Salida, and now Saguache. Terry Gillette ran through the chronology of war over centuries before the Veterans Day chili feast at the Saguache Community Center on Nov. 11.

SAGUACHE — Saguache County commissioners, war veterans, Valley to Valley administrators, and septic system crews broke ground north of Saguache on the morning of Nov. 11. Many of them capped off Veterans Day hours later with a chili feast, war history lesson, musical duet, silent auction, art contest, and special recognition for the woman behind the Valley to Valley Senior Care Center project.

Eve Braden had help from Terry Gillette from Saguache, other veterans, and volunteers throughout the day, but she started the process in 2006 when they opened the Senior Care Center in Salida, a daytime support facility.

“Make no mistake,” Gillette explained to the crowd of dozens gathered for the wind-chilly ceremony. Towering more than a foot above Braden with his arm around her, Gillette continued, “big things come in small packages. Don’t mess with this woman. She’ll get it done. She has carried the heavy water. I’m happy to come alongside her to help her out with what I can in this area.”

Braden said they first applied with the Veteran’s Administration in 2008. Now VA-approved and accepted by Tri-West Healthcare, Valley to Valley services Chaffee County, northern Fremont County, and soon northern Saguache County. But the journey to the Veterans Day celebration a mile outside Saguache included a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Finding land was a challenge until former Saguache resident and artist Byron Williams donated a 10-acre parcel before he passed away. Fundraising posed persistent challenges, but Braden and her crew raised more than $17,000 during a Mardi Gras event at Joyful Journey in 2019.

Next, the pandemic removed 2020 from the calendar, and vendor pricing and availability became new challenges in 2021. Then vandals monkey-wrenched the project by disabling machinery. Braden persevered, and she choked up while she told the ground-breaking crowd that they ultimately raised $1.2 million.

Toward the end of the evening celebration at the Saguache Community Center, Braden’s husband Jerry stepped up to the microphone with a plaque and a purpose.

Seemingly embarrassed, Eve dropped her head and muttered, “I hope you like the couch” before walking to the stage to accept her honor. She repeated the phrase within hot-mic range. Then she shared her appreciation for Gillette, other veterans, volunteers, and support over many years to finally begin construction.

Phase One will include daytime drop-in services, apartments, and assisted living. The Valley to Valley day services currently offered in Salida include transportation, socialization through activities, respite care, ADLS care, medication administration, nursing care, and family support.

Phase One began with breaking ground for the septic system. Then they’ll build the main building, the day center, respite care, and assisted living for 10 people. For Phase Two, they’ll add more assisted living and begin building apartments. Phases Three and Four will feature more accommodations.

In addition to accepting more donations for the long-term project, Braden asked for help researching the soil and finding seeds for appropriate ground coverage now that construction has begun.