FORT POLK, La. - The third of four neighborhood centers being built at Fort Polk by Picerne Military Housing celebrated its grand opening March 9. The Dogwood Terrace Neighborhood Center took center stage as military and civilian speakers extolled its attributes.

To Bill Mulvey, vice president of communications at Picerne, design is important. "Every neighborhood center has its own style. This one is unique because it honors heritage Families that gave their land to Fort Polk," said Mulvey.

Heritage Families refer to the people from the area that gave their land so that Camp Polk could be built in the effort to fight in World War II. Many residents were displaced from property and homes in this endeavor to serve their country.

The overall theme for the Dogwood center falls into what might be called "Americana." In addition to the many pictures of Heritage Families lining the walls of the interior dAfAcor includes a 1966 mustang, cut in half to make comfortable seating and license plates lining the ceiling in the clubroom. The center offers military Families other amenities such as a playroom for kids, weight room, sports themed media room, computer room and Olympic sized swimming pool.

Brig. Gen. James C. Yarbrough, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, said opening this center is a huge part of Fort Polk and the Army delivering on the promise of the Family covenant. "Our commitment to you (Soldiers and Families) is to provide a quality of life equal to your level of sacrifice," said Yarbrough.

One way the Army does this is through its collaboration with Picerne. "We're proud of Picerne and the partnership we have with them. They have a strategic impact on this post," said Yarbrough.

The impact began when Picerne Military Housing made the decision to spend $240 million to refurbish or construct military housing on Fort Polk. Some future construction and improvement projects include the Camellia Neighborhood Center, the opening of staff-sergeant-through-master-sergeant homes in Palmetto Terrace and more than 26 major renovations. Capital improvements in the amount of $1.6 million will be spent on things like landscape and drainage projects and upgrades on homes.

The Munger Family cut the ribbon at the grand opening. Yarbrough thanked them for being symbolic representatives of the 10,000 Soldiers and 18,000 Family members on the installation that are gaining from the opening of these centers.

According to Sgt. Thomas Munger, the honor of cutting the ribbon came about because of his daughter, Kimberly. "We used to live right next to the old community center. Kimberly and Anuschka (Munger's spouse) would visit the center every day after school as a treat. She always behaved well. When the people at the center were asked to choose someone to cut the ribbon, they thought of her," said Munger.

Kimberly, 5, said, "It's because I'm so nice and polite."
The Mungers are excited about the new center and already making plans for future visits. "I'm sure the center will bring a lot of people closer together. It's beautiful and we'll enjoy it when we come by for cookies and lemonade and I'm sure we will be using the pool. It is money well spent," said Anuschka.

Her sentiment is one that John Picerne, president and CEO, Picerne Military Housing, agrees with. He said the 50-year partnership Picerne made with the Army to build homes and neighborhood centers is an investment that's only in its first phase. "It's wonderful that we found a way to come together to take care of those who serve and sacrifice so much for our nation. I don't think there's better work that we could ever do," said Picerne.

The greatest impact Picerne Military Housing has made has little to do with homes, according to Picerne.

"It has more to do with creating a sense of community and neighborhood. Fort Polk always had playgrounds and parks, but I think we've stepped things up. Families who have spouses deployed over and over again are finding a sense of comfort with one another by coming to these gathering places with the idea of enjoying themselves. We do everything we can to create events that encourage Families to meet and spend time with each other. That sense of community is probably more important than any home I've ever built," said Picerne.