Longtime La Jollan Robert Clelland recently saw a decade-long dream through to completion when the final two military cottages he financed at Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Beach were dedicated. There are now 13 new wheelchair-friendly units, with 21 bedrooms, replacing 12 crumbling one-bedroom trailers.
“They called them cottages but they were actually FEMA trailers,” said Clelland, an investment advisor. “They had wheels, and they were beyond repair. They were installed over 35 years ago.”
The Pendleton Cottages Project raised nearly $2 million over the past 10 years.
“It has been a tremendously satisfying process for all involved,” Clelland said. “These new cottages will provide safe and comfortable use for active and retired military families for decades to come.”
The Pendleton Cottages Project was the idea of Clelland’s friend, Jan Wells, and her husband, Tom Hurt, a U.S. Airforce veteran. In 2010, they approached Clelland with the idea of raising the money to replace the run-down trailers with cottages featuring wide hallways, grade-level access for wheelchair-bound warriors, and accessible kitchen and bathroom facilities.
“She was dying of cancer,” Clelland recalled. “She asked me to get involved with the project and offered to pay for the first cottage. And she did. But she never lived to see it finished.” (Welss’ husband did, but both are now deceased, Clelland said.)
Clelland enlisted the support of Ron Blair, chair of the San Diego Nice Guys Victory Fund, to help with fundraising and administrative support. Clelland singled out the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club for its donations, as well as other Rotary Clubs, the Knights of Columbus and Telecomm Partners. (Each of the cottages features a dedication plaque to an individual or group designated by the primary donor.)
“We intended to do 24 but we got 13 done and 13 is all that will ever be built,” Clelland said. “Because of the infrastructure, no more water and sewage was available, so we were done. And thank goodness. I’m 73 years old and another 10 years of doing this wouldn’t have been terrific for my health.”
On completion, the cottages became the property of Camp Pendleton and are managed and maintained by Marine Corp Community Services personnel. The one- and two-bedroom cottages are available as recreational rentals, to current and retired members of all military branches, for $85-$135 per night. www.pendletoncottages.org