Montevideo Veteran's Home years in the making

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson

    After years of effort, and a group never giving up on the idea of bringing a Veteran’s Home to Montevideo, the project is finally approved and funded and slated to begin this fall. The project began fourteen years ago when a group consisting of Kenny Hill, Don Lofthus and then Veteran’s Services Officer Dennis Anderson started to discuss the idea of building a Veteran’s Home in Montevideo, knowing the distances many families had to travel to visit Veteran family members in existing facilities. Steve Jones, City Manager at the time, and Scott Marquardt, then Economic Development Director were brought the idea and researched the State and Federal requirements for constructing such a facility. 

    From there, information gathered was put together to present to Senators and Representatives which led to bills being introduced and local leaders along with a group of veterans testified at the Capital as to the need for a Veteran’s Home in this area. Filled with hope, the group was disappointed to hear the project was not approved that year, and even further when more communities joined in asking for government funding for similar projects the next year. The action led to the State conducting a legislative study on which communities could meet the criteria for being home to such a facility.

    Montevideo scored high on the list of communities meeting the criteria, and the group found themselves at the State Capital again testifying and hoping for a good result, only to be put on a Federal waiting list. A couple of years later, another study delayed State action for bonding money and Montevideo was removed from the list. However, the group behind the efforts refused to give up, working each year to update information, polish their presentations and keep the effort going. One of the founding members of the project, Marv Garbe said that in those years, many of the Veteran’s helping with the project passed away. 

    Again in 2014, the group went to the State Capital to testify as well as hosting the Senate Capital Investment Committee in Montevideo. While the Montevideo community gathered to rally behind the effort at the site that would hopefully become the location of the new Veteran’s Home, the Senate Investment Committee took note. The impression left would lead to the right people taking note and in 2018, the group that had testified in the two years prior again hosted the Senate Capital Investment Committee and in spring of 2019 they testified multiple times again. Finally, the group's efforts over the years began to pay off and Montevideo was included in a bonding bill totaling $9.4 million. The group was hoping for a fall 2019 groundbreaking with a spring 2021 move in, however, they were informed that land and infrastructure would not count toward the five million dollars they needed to raise locally, leaving them with a shortfall of $700,000. They would need to raise those funds locally to receive the rest of the funding for the $40 million project.

    Of dollars raised locally over the years towards the project, three million of those was donated by the estate of Steve Williams, a rural Clarkfield native, who had requested the estate’s money be allocated specifically for the Montevideo Veteran’s Home. 

    “We are very appreciative of Steve's thoughtfulness and should be thankful that this Vietnam Veteran was thinking of other veterans. The family of Steve Williams, namely his brother Jim was overjoyed that Steve's wishes could be complied with,” said Garbe.

    In a press release from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz dated late in March, it was announced that all three of the proposed Minnesota State Veteran’s Home projects including Montevideo will receive their Federal funding this year, as the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs has approved the construction grants. The MN Department of Veteran’s Affairs is expected to have their process for obtaining the funds completed by June 30, according to the press release. With that timeline, construction on the facility could begin as early as fall 2021 with an anticipated 18-month construction schedule.

    “It will be a state-operated facility,” says Garbe. “Their employee list they have out right now says they will have 110 employees and care for 72 vets. Some of the rooms will have room for a spouse to stay.”

    With the generous donation from Williams’s estate and a matching donation from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs of two dollars to every dollar raised through donations, the three million dollar donation is brought to nine million which allows for additional amenities to be added to the Veteran’s Home. 

    “That goes to help with the extra amenities,” said Garbe. “They’ll get a community room with it that they usually don’t have that can be used for many things.” 

    Veterans served by the new facility can come from anywhere, as Garbe said when the group originally doing the research collected data, they found that there were around 1,500 Veterans’ around the area in need of services not being served by a Veteran’s Home.

    “It’s nice now when they can be closer to home and their families can be there,” Garbe said. “When they’re closer their families can visit a lot more.”

    Garbe also noted there may be room for additional services. “I think down the road you’ll see a small dental facility added in there,” he said.