Lebanon veterans' home celebration

Jim Wallis, the former head of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, speaks during the five-year celebration held Friday at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans' Home in Lebanon.

In five short years, the Edward C. Allworth Veterans‘ Home has become a cornerstone of life in Lebanon.

Dignitaries from around the state gathered at the home on Sept. 20 to celebrate its founding in the fall of 2014.

Jim Willis, the former head of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, recalled how fiercely communities battled for the right to host the home.

“There were five jurisdictions in Oregon that wanted this home. So you were going to have one very happy place, in this case Lebanon, and four very unhappy places and I got phone calls from all four of them.”

Willis said the most important thing to remember is that this facility is truly a home to its residents. What makes the place special is that staff members understand that they are working in the veterans’ home.

“They view it exactly that way and they treat the residents exactly that way,” Willis said. “If, at 1:30 in the morning, you become hungry, you can make something to eat. You can, it’s true.”

The Lebanon home was the second built in the state, following The Dalles. Work is under way on a third home in Roseburg, and Willis feels even more veterans’ homes are needed.

“We have enough veterans ... in our population to support, in my estimation, four veteran’s home with 150 beds per home,” Willis said. “But it’s a long process. It took well over 12 years to get this home built.”

With 154 beds, it took two years for the Lebanon home to reach full capacity. Over the past five years, it has served 605 total residents.

By branch, the home has served:

• 207 United States Army veterans.

• 132 U.S. Navy veterans.

• 54 Marines.

• One Merchant Marine.

• Four from the Coast Guard.

• 76 Air Force personnel.

• Seven former members of the Army Air Corps.

By era, the home has served:

• 131 World War II veterans. There are currently 26 of these veterans living in the home at this time.

• 120 Korean veterans.

• 188 Vietnam veterans.

• 11 Gulf War veterans.

• Three OEF/OIF veterans.

• 54 peacetime veterans.

In addition, 70 spouses of veterans have lived in the home.

As part of the celebration, the home recognized three organizations which have provided special assistance over the past five years.

The Oregon Jamboree was recognized for its work in bringing entertainment to the home for residents who are not able to travel the event. In the past two years, eight musical events have been held at the home through the assistance of the Jamboree.

The Oregon State Elks was honored for its fundraising support. The Elks initially raised funds to build an outdoor fire pit at the home. Since them, the Elks have become a vital partner, raising funds for a variety of needs.

One of the first groups to support the home was Willamette Valley Quilts of Valor. The members of this group have awarded 262 hand-made quilts to veterans at the home. Each quilt has the veteran’s name and branch of service stitched onto it.

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