Dignitaries honor local residents for veterans home fundraising efforts


Legislator Bruce Anderson, right, speaks as Preston veterans Cliff Sackett, Ron Scheevel and Don Gilbert, listen with Sen. Jeremy Miller and Rep. Bob Dettmer as they stand before the construction site. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
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GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY
Bluff Country Newspaper Group

Dignitaries, legislators, veterans and community members gathered last Thursday, Sept. 27, at the top of the hill outside Preston — on Overlook Drive — where it is hoped a new veterans home will be constructed if the federal government grants funding to provide for it. 

Legislators coming together to thank the public — Fillmore County residents and residents of neighboring counties — included Minnesota House Veterans’ Affairs Division Chairman Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake; Senate Veterans Committee Chairman Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo Township; Minnesota State Representative Greg Davids, R-Preston; and State Senators Jeremy Miller, R-Winona; and Dave Senjem, R-Rochester. 

Veterans Ron Scheevel and Don Gilbert of the Preston veterans committee, Ben Jonson of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and Chuck Aug of F&M Community Bank were also on hand to mark the occasion during which those who have worked to make the home a possibility were recognized. 

The smallest dignitary at the event was Carter Keim of rural Preston who was recognized for his egg money contribution of $2,500 toward the effort to build a home for veterans of Fillmore County and 15 neighboring counties.       

“If anyone ever doubted the support for this project, there are just about 400 names of contributors on the list of people in the 15-county catchment area,” reported Aug. “We’re getting donations every day yet, and the total from individuals is about $310,000.”

With additional local support from Fillmore County and the city of Preston, Aug noted local support is about $1.5 million.

Economic Development Director Cathy Enerson said Preston has 1,350 residents who worked together to round up a sizable sum of money in a matter of five weeks to meet a deadline for the home’s proposal to be submitted to the state. 

“From north to south, our veterans will all be served,” she said. “I think this is an important project…with an $11 million return annually from the dollars you are giving to the project…there’s been an amazing amount of collaboration.” 

Sen. Miller stood to address the attendees, relating that it was Dettmer, Anderson, Senjem and Urdahl who were instrumental in assisting in the process of securing potential funding for a home to be constructed in Fillmore County through it being placed on a bonding bill. 

“But all the work that we did does not compare to what you have done as community members,” he stated. 

Anderson took the lectern next, telling about how the waiting list for veterans to be placed in a state home is long and that he is pleased with the progress. 

Dettmer recounted his question to his colleagues in the legislature — “The Vikings have a great home, but what about our veterans?”  He added that he had toured Minnesota and visited other proposed sites for homes to be built, and upon stopping in Montevideo, Minn., he met a World War II veteran who acknowledged the vision that the legislators credit local residents with possessing. 

“He said, ‘I won’t be around by the time this home is built — it’s not for me, but it’s for the veterans behind me, from Korea and Vietnam’,” he shared.

The dignitaries observed that that statement is likely true in relation to who will occupy the Fillmore County veterans’ home, but they also agreed that no matter in what war or conflict a veteran has served, it is the nation’s duty to repay their service with a comfortable and safe place to retire. 

In closing, they reiterated their appreciation for the pledges and contributions in support of the home to help make it a reality here in Fillmore County.