Veterans Watchmaker Initiative ticking strongly in Odessa

ODESSA — Time keeps ticking and watches inevitably malfunction.

Capitalizing on a significant need for watchmakers nationally, Sam Cannan envisions Delaware veterans filling the void after training in southern New Castle County.

The nonprofit Veterans Watchmaker Initiative launch had floundered, but moved to solid ground in a quaint town that was formerly a regional clockmaking hub during colonial times, beginning in the 1770s.

New Castle County Executive Thomas P. Gordon immediately supported the cause, offering a 3,000 square foot former paramedic station on three acres available for a dollar a year.

The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative will begin at the former New Castle Paramedic Station off U.S. 13 in Odessa. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative will begin at the former New Castle Paramedic Station off U.S. 13 in Odessa. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Committing to a 10-year lease was never so easy.

“This is what they call a no-brainer,” Mr. Gordon said. “I have never heard of such a great concept to benefit so many people for so little.”

VWI co-founder Mr. Cannan sees disabled veterans working through a 14-month course, learning how to fix mechanical and quartz watches before gaining “instant employment” upon graduation. A shorter training on fixing all types of quartz watches is also available.

“I will do New Castle County, the Town of Odessa, the State of Delaware proud with this project,” Mr. Cannan said.

Besides the satisfaction of learning a skill and entering the work force with a new purpose, master watchmakers make about $85,000 annually on average.

The Delaware Military Academy honor guard presents the colors at the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative ceremony on Monday in Odessa. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

The First State Military Academy color guard opens the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative ceremony on Monday in Odessa. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

The initiative’s long-range plan is to build a permanent site on four acres of land donated by Richard and Geri Money of Middletown in November 2014. A fundraising campaign to raise millions of dollars for the building next to U.S. 301 near the Maryland border is underway.

An attempt to locate the program in the former Kenton Elementary School ultimately fell apart after a town council vote in January 2014.

Mr. Cannan made his pitch to the Town of Middletown, which agreed committed to underwrite power, water and sewer service for the Money’s commercially zoned farmland.

“This has been a long time coming,” Master of Ceremonies Dave Skocik said before a crowd of roughly 80 on Monday afternoon.

“Sam has worked for so many years to see this happen.”

The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative is a 501(c)(3) organization accepting tax-deductible donations. Checks can be made payable to The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative Inc. and mailed to P.O. Box 329, Little Creek, DE 19961.

Donations can be made online at www.veteranswatchmakerinitiative.org, where more information is available. The nonprofit’s Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/veteranswatchmakerinitiative.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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