The Air Force Enlisted Village (AFEV) has been serving retired enlisted Air Force members and their spouses for 50 years.
The facility, which is located in Shalimar between two major Air Force bases — Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field — houses around 500 residents. That number will grow with a new expansion slated to open in 2020.
On Tuesday morning, AFEV held a groundbreaking ceremony for Bob Hope Village 6, a residential community featuring 63 apartments and a clubhouse. The last expansion was in 2015 when the facility opened Bob Hope Village 5.
With Florida being the third-largest veteran population in the U.S., there is a steady demand for units at AFEV, said CEO Brooke McLean.
“It’s a big step for us,” he said. “The first phase is 63 units, but we’ll have space for 80 more units when we fill up. We didn’t want to over-extend ourselves.”
The new building was made possible through grants and donations as well as bank financing.
AFEV is currently only open to retired enlisted Air Force members and their spouses. McLean said in the future, they are working to expand and allow all branches of the military.
“The demand is there,” he said. “We often get calls from other bases, but we don’t have the space.”
AFEV consists of The Bob Hope Village, an independent living community, and Hawthorn House, which offers assisted living and memory support. Bob Hope Village is named for the late comedian who was an early supporter of the nonprofit organization.
The cost of monthly services is needs-based. McLean said fees are about “one-third” of the average retirement home, however some residents may still need financial support.
“Many of our residents are military widows, and so we have a special program designed for them,” he said. “Some may only have a barebones income with their social security, so we estimate each of their needs and provide direct support.”
The Air Force is a "lifelong endeavor," McLean said. AFEV is meant to be an extension of military life and be a place where service members and their families can feel at home.
“We provide a unique service,” McLean said. “Residents here have sacrificed much of their lives...they lived and they served. This is our way of paying them back and feeling a sense of community in their later years.”