The Nam Vets Association of Cape Cod & The Islands took over ownership of the Doreen Grace Brain Center during a brief ceremony yesterday morning held at the facility on Seanest Drive in New Seabury.
The process of transferring ownership of the half-acre property and 10,228-square-foot building took more than a year, and involved review and approval from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the state Supreme Judicial Court.
“I thought it would be easy, but it took more than a year,” said Richard Grace, son of the founders of the center, which was established in honor of his sister, Doreen, who died of a viral brain infection in 1976.
When the center ceased to be a viable operation, Mr. Grace decided that he wanted to donate the facility to an organization that would pay homage to his late father, a former United States Marine, and a Purple Heart medal recipient. He was led to the Nam Vets Association after he sent a letter of inquiry to Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Coleman Nee.
Mr. Grace opened the event with a brief, emotional speech to the audience, which included State Representative David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth), members of local veterans organizations, and a small media contingent.
“This building has a heart and soul, and I hope the Nam Vets organization feels it. I wanted to seek out a veterans organization that had a parallel mission to the Grace Center. This will be a nice transition,” Mr. Grace said.
Mr. Grace has stipulated that the building continued to be named “The Grace Center,” with an applicable defining tagline permissible underneath the name, and that one room of the building be dedicated to the history of his sister’s fund. While he currently resides in the northwest suburbs of Boston, Mr. Grace said he intends to be involved with the Nam Vets organization as much as possible.
The Nam Vets organization, despite its name, offers services to veterans of all wars. It plans on operating at the location the first fully integrated medical facility of its kind in the state, providing everything from chiropractic services to natural alternative remedies to veterans.
According to Merrill H. Blum, director of the association, the center is expected to establish regular office hours within the next week and be fully operational by the end of the year. Mr. Blum also said that he has been in discussions with the Community Health Center of Cape Cod in Mashpee about the possibility of offering cooperative programs.
Absent from the audience were Mashpee town leaders and local elected officials.
“It was not unknown that we were doing this. I am disappointed, but not surprised that they were not here,” Mr. Blum said.
Michael S. Richardson, chairman of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen and executive director of the New Seabury homeowner’s association, said that he was aware that the transfer was imminent, but did not know that there was an event scheduled. Selectman Carol A. Sherman also said that she was not aware of the event, but would have definitely been in attendance had she known.
When news of the planned transfer first broke late last year, it was met with opposition by some New Seabury residents concerned about increased traffic and limited parking at the facility. Many also questioned whether the location was appropriate for a veterans health center, as it is far from the center of town and public transportation.
In January, Reed K. McCaffrey, a New Seabury homeowner and a well-known trial lawyer, said he had contacted the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha M. Coakley, requesting that the transfer process be slowed until the community has secured more information about the center.
As of press time, Mr. McCaffery had not returned a call for comment regarding yesterday’s property transfer.
“I have no concerns about the community embracing this facility. We would not be here without our veterans, and they need support from the community,” Mr. Grace said.