Riding the coattails of the new VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Community Based Outpatient Clinic coming to Shenandoah, the Veterans Houses Project is seeking to help local veterans by drawing new residents to Page County and the surrounding area.

The private housing project is spearheaded by a five-member board that includes Page County Veterans Service Officer Janet Olsen. Launched in October, the program uses proceeds from the rental of area homes to assist local veterans.

"The Veterans Houses Project was established to help raise funding to assist veterans in need in our county. At the same time we hope the project will attract veterans to Page County and help them get established as residents. I believe veterans bring with them instilled values and training that will help our community grow," Olsen said.

Currently, there are four homes involved in the project and two additional homes are being considered. Those homes are located in Farragut, New Market and Shenandoah.

Ultimately, Olsen said she would like to see 10 homes involved in the program. To reach that goal, Olsen said she hopes to expand the program to other cities in and around Page County including Clarinda.

"Clarinda is so progressive. I think that is going to be our next area to work in and try to find homes," Olsen said.

All four of the renters currently involved in the program are new to the area. Although two of the new renters do happen to be veterans, Olsen said the program does not require the renters of the homes to have military experience.

"We are trying to bring people into Page County and at the same time help our veterans. The proceeds from the rental of the properties will be used to assist local veterans. If we find a need, we are going to approach that need," Olsen said.

Already revenue from the four homes in the program has been used to purchase car parts, an air conditioner, a toilet, gasoline, a hotel room for the family of a veteran having surgery, and to make a security deposit for a veteran.

The first two homes enrolled in the project were located in New Market and Shenandoah. Those homes were donated to the program by Jethro Shaw of Shenandoah.

"We were blessed to have a benefactor like Mr. Shaw purchase and donate two homes for this program to promote his legacy," Olsen said. "He set the cornerstone to allow me to work on this dream and it has progressed from there. Without his support it would never have grown. He shares my dream of seeing veterans move into the local communities because they are dedicated and strong people that can help the towns they live in."

The third home was offered to the program at a reduced price by the widow of a Shenandoah veteran as she prepared to move into a long-term care facility. However, in speaking with the woman, Olsen learned she wanted to stay in her home, but could not afford that option.

Olsen said the program helped the woman set up a reverse mortgage that allowed her to remain in her home.

The fourth home was provided to the program by the city of Farragut. The house was rented to a veteran looking to move to the area with his family that had the skills to make the necessary improvements to the house on his own.

"He is living in the home as he does the repairs to update the plumbing and bathroom," Olsen said.

Two additional houses in Shenandoah are also being considered for the program. Olsen said the program has worked in cooperation with the Greater Shenandoah Foundation to provide a tax free umbrella for all homes and donations received by the program.

"Someone recently donated a car to the program that will be sold to further assist our veterans. They didn't have a use for it anymore, but it will go a long way for use with this project," Olsen said. "The response to the program has been wonderful. There is great support for our veterans and our donors are excited about getting people into the communities."

Anyone interested in more information on the program may contact Olsen in the afternoons or evenings at 712-215-0827.

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