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After A Rough Year, Five Star Veterans Get A Fresh Coat Of Paint

Cyd Hoskinson

Only about eight months ago, Jacksonville's Five Star Veterans Center didn’t know from one day to the next whether it's doors would remain open.

Today, not only is the facility for homeless military veterans still open, it’s getting a facelift thanks to about 100 local volunteers and big box hardware retailer The Home Depot.

CEO Len Loving was amazed on Thursday as volunteers began renovations.

"They’re all over the place like ants, outside doing the landscaping as well as doing the inside," he said.

Loving said the center's north wing, parts of which volunteers began painting on Thursday, will be turned into women’s living quarters. 

Ryan Morse, who manages the Home Depot store on Jacksonville's Southside Blvd., came up with the idea to help the Five Star Veterans Center.

"We really want to make the individual rooms as pretty as we can so when those folks again have a place to call home, it’s a nice place to call home,” he said.

The renovations are part of The Home Depot Foundation's annual two month "Celebration of Service" campaign. The company has pledged to spend $80 million over five years to help improve the lives of veterans and their families.

The physical paint job comes as the center is also in the process of renovating it's reputation.

Five Star Veterans Center was formerly named the Allied Veterans Center, founded and financed by the Allied Veterans of the World.

The center got caught in the crossfire in March when leaders of the Allied Veterans were arrested for racketeering and the organization’s internet cafes were shut down for illegal gambling.

Former Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, who once served as a consultant for Allied Veterans of the World, resigned as a result of the investigation.

At the time it was unclear whether the center would be allowed to remain open or if it's bank accounts would be permanently seized as evidence in the case.

On Sept. 26, the center entered into a settlement with the Florida’s Office of the Attorney General and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office clearing the center of any wrongdoing.

Earlier this month, the alleged mastermind of the Allied Veterans racket, Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis, was convicted on over 100 counts for his role in the scheme.

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.