UPDATE ON THE N. IDAHO VETERANS HOME


Sixteen years ago, our region decided that we needed a Veterans Home in N. Idaho.  Although Idaho had three existing Veterans Homes, the closest was in Lewiston, a difficult drive for family members during the late fall and winter months.  Also our Veterans population in Northern Idaho was increasing and we could document the need for an additional facility.
The effort was the idea of former Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin and the late Representative Frank Henderson.  As the idea expanded, others joined the effort and assisted in helping us document the need for the home and provide data regarding the growing Veterans Community in the five northern counties of Idaho.  
The effort got a major push when the Jacklyn family generously agreed to donate a 7.4 acre site in the Riverbend Commerce Park to the State of Idaho to provide a location for the new home.  The City of Post Falls also provided advice and support, as did our northern Idaho legislators, regional City leaders and members of our Veterans Service Organizations.   The staff of the Idaho Division of Veterans Services ran point on the project, interfacing with VA and continuing to strengthen our application.  Our Community also persevered, and did not let delays or negative feedback dissuade us from working hard to make this happen.
Finally, last September we received notice that the Veterans Administration was awarding the Idaho Division of Veterans Services a 65% construction grant for the construction of an 85,000 square foot 64 bed Veterans Home.  Our application, which was ready to go due to the Jacklyn land donation and all our documentation, was deemed to be “shovel ready” and we were awarded funding when approved grant applications from two other states failed to move forward.  We were in the right place, with the right data at the right time.   
The new Veterans home will be built on a 7.4 acre site donated to the State of Idaho for the facility, by the members of the Jacklyn family.  The State Legislature had previously committed the balance of the funds needed for construction.  The new Veterans Home will consist of one large building with four separate wings and will all be on one level.  A rendering of the building previously appeared in the Coeur d’Alene Press.
Our plans for an official groundbreaking ceremony have been delayed by the COVID-19 shutdown, and we have experienced some minor delays in construction, however the construction contractor hired by the Idaho Division of Veteran Services recently mobilized on the site and has begun to grade and install utility infrastructure.  Construction will continue with an opening of the facility anticipated by June of 2021.
The Idaho Division of Veterans Services has taken its experience over the past five months in dealing with the health issues caused by the pandemic - particularly in long-term care of senior citizens – and is working to incorporate COVID-19 type enhancements into the design and construction of the facility which will help during a future pandemic or even a seasonal flu outbreak. Any additional delays related to these types of enhancements to the design, however, are expected to be minimal to none.  
While we are optimistic, and looking forward to moving to Stage 4 of Governor Little’s Idaho Rebounds Plan on June 13th – June 26th, we anticipate that a formal groundbreaking event for this facility will be a well-attended.  The Idaho Division of Veteran Services has delayed the official ceremony until mid-August so that they can ensure that all appropriate safeguards are in place (including those provided through Governor Little's Office related to planning safe gatherings), to protect our Community and our Veterans.
The Idaho Veterans Assistance League (“IVAL”), a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization provides support services for Veterans living in Idaho Veterans Homes.  A local chapter of IVAL has recently been formed and includes representatives of each of the major Veterans Organizations - American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps League and Disabled American Veterans and a representative of the City of Post Falls.  As construction proceeds, IVAL will be seeking donations to install a “canteen” in the new Veterans Home and will also be coordinating local volunteers.  If you are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to the Idaho Veterans Assistance League, Inc. – Post Falls Chapter, please contact Len Crosby who is the organization’s Treasurer.