OTTUMWA --- Former soldiers say the government does a pretty good job looking after older veterans. But the budget doesn't allow for many luxuries.
That's why over the past five years, Ottumwa Elks have raised money and collected coffee for the veterans home in Marshalltown.
"They get some coffee, a little bit," said Don Lewis, a combat vet in both the U.S. Army and later the Air Force as part of the Iowa Air National Guard, "but it's not mandatory [per the] VA."
Lewis is a member of the Elks, as well as the Vietnam Veterans of America, both of which team up to do an annual coffee drive. He was at Hy-Vee on Saturday morning, then Fareway in the afternoon.
"Thank you," said US Navy veteran Willard Beghtol to a donor. He and Lewis were manning the table inside the entrance to Fareway on Albia Road. In fact, there was a fairly steady level of donations.
"I'm proud of the response we get from the republic," Lewis said.
He chatted briefly with another donor, who told him both her husband and her father had served in the military. He asked her to pass along his gratitude for their service.
Wapello County's local veterans have started to see the benefit of the Elk's and VVA's efforts.Starting last year, they began donating coffee to the VA Medial Clinic in Ottumwa. They also purchased coffee makers for the clinic.
"The Elks are dedicated to our veterans, our kids and our communities," Lewis said. "We say that so long as there are veterans, Elks will not forget them."
To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark