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MC Luncheon Speaker: Patrick Colbeck, co-founder and CEO of Freedom Center at DTW

Our luncheon speaker on January 14th was Patrick Colbeck, the co-founder and current CEO of the Freedom Centers at Detroit Metro Airport and Military Entrance Processing Stations in Troy and Lansing. Patrick is a former Candidate for Governor and Two-Term State Senator in Michigan. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan with bachelor’s and Masters of Science Degrees in Aerospace Engineering and also the Life Sciences Department at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. His professional career is highlighted by his public service in the Michigan Senate (term-limited) and his engineering design work on key elements of the Life Support System for the International Space Station. He also served as an instructor at Space Camp in Huntsville, AL

Colbeck described that the need for the Freedom Centers, previously called Michigan Armed Forces Hospitality Centers, arose from the fact that Michigan has no USO centers because there are no active duty military installations in Michigan. Freedom Centers are airport lounges available to both active duty members of the all branches of the military as well as veterans. Their motto is “Serving Those Who Serve Us.” They also serve members of the armed forces of our allies as well as gold star and blue star families. The first Michigan Freedom Center opened in the McNamara Terminal at DTW in 2011, but now they also have a Center in the North Terminal as well as the MEP Stations in Lansing and Troy. They provide a place for military members in transit and veterans to relax, recharge and refresh away from the noisy, harried atmosphere of the airport. In addition to refreshments and comfortable chairs, the Centers have bunk beds for short naps.

Since they opened, the Freedom Centers have served more than 694,000 guests. The many messages of thanks in the guest books and Yelp ratings show that their services are appreciated. The Centers are staffed by 200 volunteers and a small staff and supported by contributions from corporate and individual donors and guests of about $250,000 per year. They have an annual golf outing, this year on July 31 at Fellows Creek Golf Club in Canton. Patrick hopes that our members will help get the word out about the value of the Freedom Centers and their need for support. Volunteers at the Centers and their events are always needed, as well as contribution of cash or supplies such as bottled water. Patrick also described how the Freedom Centers would like to team with the Yankee Air Museum to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II by providing Michigan Freedom Rides for up to 400 veterans in a B-17. They are seeking sponsors now. For the future, Patrick would like to build an endowment fund to stabilize their finances and expand their reach. For more information, see their website here.

We thank Patrick for taking the time to visit the Men’s Club and tell us about the Freedom Centers.

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