A year ago Army veteran and Homeland Security employee, Eric Thomas, reached out to his parents, Dave and Dr. Rebecca Thomas about a military friend in a life struggle with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome).
A wounded combat veteran whose struggle with PTSD was eased by receiving a service dog, he shared with them a vision of creating a foundation to provide mental health treatment, a service dog and political advocacy for veterans. Out of those conversations, the CJ3 foundation was formed and to date four veterans have service dogs and six have received mental health assistance (from psychologist Dr. Thomas).
Friday afternoon on the front porch of the Kendall Place, Thomas and his foundation received a check for $25,000 from Chariton Valley Electric Cooperative, it electrical supplier Northeast Power and financial cooperative Cobank to continue the restoration of the historic home.
As veteran needs grew and were identified, it became clear that housing veterans for a weekend of mental health treatment was becoming more difficult. Dr. Thomas talked to a guy, who knew a guy, who happened to have a house across the alley from the Westover Center, the Thomas home and mental health clinic.
“The last thing I needed was another house,” said Dr. Thomas at a gathering in the front lawn of the Kendall Place on Friday. “I live in an old church for crying out loud.”
But there it was. The home of Gov. Nathan Kendall, who willed the unusual stone block home to the Albia Woman’s Club, who then gave it to the Monroe County Historical Society who didn’t know exactly what to do with the deteriorating historical gem. CJ3 owned the home and had begun the huge challenge of restoring it, preserving its historical integrity while outfitting it for veterans in the CJ3 program.
“I wondered immediately if we could do justice to the house,” said Eric Thomas to the crowd Friday. “Then my mother uncovered the history of Gov. Nathan Kendall and I knew we were headed in the right direction.”
Among other things, Kendall was one of the foremost advocates of Iowa veterans returning from WWI and convinced the state legislature to contribute the then princely sum of $2 million ($32 million in today’s dollar value) to the cause of veteran’s affairs.
CVEC General Manager Leilani Todd spoke in behalf of the electrical cooperative and its associates. “Seventy-five years ago the electrical cooperative spirit was born and we electrified rural Iowa for each other,” she said. “This is what we believe in. Creating a sustaining effort for what our members believe in.”
“It’s an extreme blessing,” said Eric Thomas. “I don’t live here but we’ve received more support in partnering to come around our wounded heroes from this small community than from the Washington, D.C. area.
“All I had to do was tell the story,” he said.