Special to the Daily News
Ground will be broken in the next few weeks on an outdoor sanctuary where veterans can spend time with family and friends, participate in games and enjoy nature.
The eight-acre green space — named Heroes Park — will be built behind the Norfolk Veterans Home, which is located on East Benjamin Avenue in Norfolk. The project will also include a flag pavilion —honoring all branches of the military — that will be located in front of the building.
“Nebraskans have generously opened their hearts and their wallets for this worthy cause,” said Ron Stauffer, chairman of the campaign that is raising the $2.5 million needed to construct the park and flag pavilion. “But we’re not at the finish line yet. We still need financial support to make this project happen.”
An update on the project was provided to about 100 people Thursday morning at the Norfolk Veterans Home. The initial campaign to build the park began several years ago. Efforts reorganized a year ago, and, since then, around $1.7 million of the $2.5 million needed to complete the project has been raised.
“We need an additional $800,000 to complete the project. Failure is not an option. Let’s make these veterans’ lives a bit brighter,” Stauffer said.
Dave Amick, vice president of the Norfolk Veterans Home Foundation, which is overseeing the project, added, “The veterans are the reason we have kept going on this project for the last five years. When we see veterans, we know we have to get this done.”
The $2.5 million goal includes an endowment fund to maintain the park, Stauffer added. All pledges and donations made during that initial campaign will be recognized and honored.
Since the Norfolk Veterans Home serves men and women from all over Nebraska, people from outside of the immediate Norfolk are being asked to support the park, Stauffer said.
“At the present time, the only outside area that is available for veterans is the front parking lot. Our heroes deserve better,” he added.
The eight-acre park will feature a covered pavilion that can seat more than 200 people, several covered picnic areas, walking paths, gardens, a playground for children who are visiting, outdoor games, a meadow with native grasses and trees, solitude gardens and much more.
The flag plaza will honor all branches of the military. It will be unusual in that family and friends can purchase a tile honoring a veteran that can include a smart tag that, when activated by a smartphone, leads the viewer to a website with photos and stories about the veteran.
Stauffer is being assisted by others with similar campaign experience, including R.J. Gall, president of the Norfolk Veterans Home Foundation, Mike Wilke of Leigh and Joe Ferguson and Jim Bradford, both of Norfolk. Honorary co-chairmen are Ervin Eisenmenger of West Point, Virgil Froehlich and J. Paul McIntosh, both of Norfolk, and former Norfolkan Shane Osborn, now of Omaha.
The Norfolk Veterans Home Foundation is overseeing the project and will continue to oversee the park once it is built.
Other foundation members, in addition to Gall, Wilke and Amick, are Robert Morrow, Ron Albin, Larry Dinkel and Sheryl Schmeckpeper, all of Norfolk, as well as Scott Stanton of Laurel and Rick Wimer of West Point.
“The reason we’re doing this is to enhance the quality of life for our veterans,” said Jerry Eisenhauer, administrator of the Norfolk Veterans Home.