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Adopt-A-Vet initiative forges on despite cancellation of party

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS — There won’t be the annual party for Adopt-A-Vet this year due to COVID-19 concerns, but stars are still available at a number of MCBD locations. Stars must be returned with gifts by Dec. 1.

Her favorite part of the event might be put on hold, but Erin McGregor of McGregors Furniture has been hard at work this year planning the annual Adopt-A-Vet initiative put forward by the Marshalltown Central Business District. 

The initiative has been around for almost 20 years in Marshalltown, and Gayle Hellberg of Hellberg’s Jewelers was key in starting the initiative. The Adopt-A-Vet drive involves residents of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown who either served in the military or, in some cases, were married to someone who served. 

Businesses in the MCBD who participate put stars of veterans and items on their Christmas wish lists in their stores, McGregor said.

“Those that don’t have family or have family that maybe aren’t involved in their lives, we adopt them,” McGregor said. “And we adopt them anonymously. The Iowa Veterans Home is a wonderful partner. They do a lot of work to meet with these veterans and then determine what they would like. Then that request comes to me with the number of the resident and what they would like.”

Businesses participating this year include Optical Center, Pentz Appliance, Brown Shoe Fit, Hellberg’s Jewelers, McGregors Furniture and Mattress, InStitches and Black Tire Bike Company. McGregor said there are roughly 170 stars this year, possibly more. 

Presents gathered for veterans for a previous year of Adopt-A-Vet.

McGregor said she was worried there would be less of a clamoring to help out given all that’s happened to the city since March with the COVID-19 pandemic and the derecho. It would have been understandable with what happened for people to be less willing to spend, she said. 

Instead, the response has surpassed what McGregor could have hoped for. It might get to the point where they will run out of stars to pass out, meaning the amount of people reaching out to help is higher than the number of stars left. 

It has been a welcome development, McGregor said. 

“It’s been crazy,” McGregor said. “I am not at all surprised by the community outreach, because that’s just kind of always been how it is in Marshalltown. So I’m not really surprised but I am really, really proud of us.”

The ending of the event will be different this year as there’s no party with the veterans due to COVID-19 rising in Iowa and the heightened risk for the elderly, where they are usually presented with their gifts. This is McGregor’s favorite part of the initiative, she said, seeing the smiles on the faces of those who have served the country and gave the Marshalltown community a chance to give back. 

The deadline for gift-shopping is close, as the stars (and their respective gifts) are supposed to be returned to the store where the star was taken from by Dec. 1. Then, the presents will be brought to the recipients at the Iowa Veterans Home. 

“Sometimes it’s a very simple gift,” McGregor said. “But it means something to them, and so it means something to us as well.”

Contact Noah Rohlfing at nrohlfing@timesrepublican.com.

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