Warrior Park to help veterans and first responders open businesses

CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WSAZ) -- Vietnam veteran and Charleston businessman Ken Kelly is turning the abandoned Watts Elementary School on the city's West Side into an incubator for veterans and first responders to open small businesses.

Rendering of the renovated Watts Elementary School being turned into Warrior Park for 2020.

Warrior Park will open in 2020 to provide the skills and support needed for these heroes to successfully transition to civilian life.

"When you go from the battle field to the civilian life, it's pretty traumatic and, you know, I want to bridge that gap," Kelly said. "I'll give them the skills and we will give them the right team to put together. Give them the right effort and make this work."

Kelly hopes to have 10 warrior-owned businesses opened in the center's first year. The owners will get to keep 80 percent of the profits while the other 20 percent goes back to the charity to help other businesses start.

"There is so much potential and I've already talked to so many people that want to be involved," Kelly said. He is investing $250,000 of his own money to open the center. "Small business is the backbone of this country, and when you talk about small business it's the mom and pop down the street and that is who the majority of income is for this country."

He said each business will provide a public service to better the community, and that the men and women who've served already have what it takes to be successful.

"Veterans sometimes don't get the respect they deserve, but I'll tell you I want to give them a hand up not a handout," Kelly said. "I will put them in the right environment, that's what I want to do."