Nonprofit to run homeless shelter for area veterans

by Anelia K. Dimitrova

A Waverly house will soon open its doors as a homeless veterans shelter.

This is the first such establishment in Bremer County and the only one in the state of Iowa solely dedicated to veterans, says its director, Neal Jarnagin.

A Navy veteran himself, Jarnagin, who is also the director of Bremer County Veterans Affairs, has been advocating for the facility since November of 2014.

Initially, he wanted the facility to be an extension of the county services since the county already provides emergency sheltering for veterans, but his plan was questioned by the board of supervisors who were concerned about potential liability and the cost to the taxpayers.

In August, Jarnagin and Vietnam veteran Lyman Campbell, decided to work on an alternative solution and form a non-profit organization called Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans, which was incorporated in the first week of September.

Bob Sable, a retired insurance agent and Vietnam veteran, Campbell, and his wife, Cyndi, of Ecker’s Greenhouse, Rebecca Laas, the executive director of Waverly Homes, the entity which owns the home, Lori Nelson, an attorney and former middle school teacher, and Matt Haugan, a Iraq War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat, and Brent Steere, a Vietnam vet and a Purple Heart recipient, are on the board of directors.

“We also have a ton of other individuals providing special expertise,” Jarnagin added.

The shelter is now called LZ Phoenix, a nod to what the military refers to a “landing zone,” the point where help arrives, in the form of supplies or reinforcement, and phoenix, after the mythical story of bird rising from the ashes.

Outside the house at 429 16th St. NM, a sign built by Strottman Lumber showcases the shelter name and a silhouette of a soldier, called soldier’s cross, cut out of steel, sits by the door with the American flag flying above it.

Once a final building inspection is completed by the county, the shelter will open yet this month, and a ribbon cutting will follow in mid-October.

“It’s about doing the right thing,” Jarnagin said. “If the community wasn’t supportive it wouldn’t have happened.”