Veterans helping vets
Over the last few years, volunteers have been hard at work turning a 14-acre parcel of land in Dairyland from a wooded area to a retreat where veterans can relax in the outdoors.
They’ve managed to get a well in, cleared land and moved a lot of dirt, constructed a pavilion, and shower and storage building, developed 12 recreational vehicle sites, and even erected a flagpole, donated in honor of fallen Marine Sgt. Chad Allen whose parents, Steve and Deb Allen, lived in Dairyland when he was killed in Iraq in 2007.
But there’s more work to be done.
Now four organizations that support veterans are coming together to help. The Superior Elks Lodge 403 in cooperation with the American Legion Richard I. Bong Post 435, Submarine Veterans Western Superior Base and the Retired Enlisted Association Superior Chapter 119 are hosting a spaghetti dinner fundraiser Friday to help pay for construction costs. The dinner runs 5-8 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 1503 Belknap St.
"The union plumbers are coming down," said Rod Wilson, director of the Dairyland Outdoor Veterans Retreat on County Road TT at the Radigan Dam waterway. "We’ve had so much luck with the unions up here. The union carpenters built this," he said, pointing to a photograph of the shower house and storage building on the site. "We sided it, but they built it and roofed it up. We’ve got 12 RV sites ready to go for the May 7 fishing opener. Our grand opening is June 3-4, and everyone who knows about this is invited."
The retreat is a nonprofit campground serving veterans, but the project has a way to go, Wilson said.
"It’s approved for seven cabins and 25 trailer sites," Wilson said, which haven’t been built yet.
Wilson said the organization has been applying for grants, and five years into the project they are discovering that’s what it takes to get attention from grantors.
"They don’t want any fly-by-nighters," Wilson said. He said the organization has applied for a $700,000 grant through Anderson Windows, as well as others in the ongoing effort to build a retreat where veterans can enjoy the outdoors in northern Wisconsin.
And helping the retreat reach its goal inspired the organizations to come together to raise money for the project.
"I guess it started with the Elks," said member Troy Magnuson. "We tried to get as many organizations involved as possible so we’d get the word out and get more people involved. We’re all trying to help veterans out so why not do one big project."
The dinner includes the usual fair — spaghetti, garlic bread sticks and all the fixings. In addition, there will be a two raffles with drawings to take place at a later date, three 50/50 drawings and a silent auction with proceeds going to the Dairyland Outdoor Veterans Retreat
"It’s for veterans," said Butch Liebaert of the Retired Enlisted Association.
"We give all our money away one way or another," said Dennis Bee of the American Legion Richard I. Bong Post 435. He said they’ve been looking for new ways to help veterans because some ideas haven’t worked as well as others.
However, they have found success when it comes to helping other veterans.
"We always donate to the veterans home up on the shore, and they are always very, very appreciative," Bee said.
So when the opportunity to help the veterans retreat presented itself, they decided to get involved.
Magnuson said they also got the submarine veterans involved, which includes about 30 members in the area.
"It’s something different for the organization," Magnuson said.
Wilson said in addition to grant-writing and the fundraiser next week — and donations and in-kind contributions from nearly 70 organizations throughout northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, the retreat is selling pavers to memorialize veterans in a planned memorial garden.
"Donations will be accepted," Magnuson said. "The goal is to see what we can get. There’s still a lot of projects."
Wilson said the idea for the retreat started with a discussion with two new cabin owners — one with the American Legion and one with the VFW from New Richmond. During that conversation, he said they decided they had to do something for the veterans.
With a land donation from the county, and Dairyland Town Board approval, and a small number of early volunteers and the nine-member board got the ball rolling.
"The whole purpose of all these groups is to help veterans," Magnuson said.
"It’s progressing," Wilson said.
For information about the retreat, visit dovr.org.