$35 million renovation project at the Iowa Veterans Home - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

$35 million renovation project is underway at the Iowa Veterans Home

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MARSHALLTOWN (KWWL) -

A $35 million renovation project is underway at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

More than 600 veterans and spouses of veterans call this campus home. It's the only nursing home for Iowa's veterans and is the fourth largest nursing home in the country.

The three year renovation project includes the remodeling of two residential buildings, Malloy and Dack.

Iowa Veteran Home Commandant David Worley says one of his goals has been to give a single room to every veteran who wants one.

"We don't want our veterans specifically or the spouses of our veterans to move in their elderly years and they end up living with a stranger, similar to what happens if you went to college," Worley said.

State and federal funds are backing the $35 million project, $24 million from the U.S. government with state matching 35 percent of the funds.

Overall, the changes will mean more privacy for the veterans and their spouses.

Some, like Lee and Carolyn Smith, are making the current situation work in their best interest by living in two single person rooms that share a bathroom. The couple has been married for more than 40 years and moved into the Iowa Veterans Home about six weeks ago. The Navy man served during the Korean War, went to college for engineering, and traveled throughout the world including Germany and the Ukraine. Lee and Carolyn settled down in Illinois for more than two decades before they came to Iowa to be closer to their son. Carolyn's lung problems brought them to the Iowa Veterans home. Now their cozy two rooms are in Heinz Hall, the oldest building at the Iowa Veterans home, built in 1898.

Worley says the building is still structurally sound, but has no central air conditioning and could use improvements from a privacy standpoint.

Worley says that the Smiths are one of 28 couples at the home who make the current situation work.

"[The rooms are] not designed to live together, and so we made a decision that we would design these room specifically for couples so that they'll have a sleeping area and a living area, just like the single rooms will be for the single residents," Worley said.

The privacy has been huge for many like Vietnam War Veteran and Marine Jay Thomason. Thomason was in the Marine Corps for about 8 years before working at Maytag, but he needed more medical help after falling and breaking his hip years ago. Since March 2007, Thomason underwent seven operations.

"I've been here six years, and I finally got my own room," Thomason said. "I don't have to share a bathroom anymore or anything. That's great."

Thomason says it feels like home now.

"The staff is good. The food is good. At least, you're not out sitting under a tree in the jungle," Thomason added with a smile.

Robert and Bonnie Schippers have also been at the Iowa Veterans home for six years. The World War II machinist says he thanks Uncle Sam for "everything that he does."

"We just have a wonderful time, there's everything to do here and we have two tomato boxes," Schippers said.

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