Breaking ground

Arizona Department of Veterans' Services Director and Retired Air Force Col. Wanda Wright, (farthest right) is joined by Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls (second from right) and representatives from the architecture firm and construction company as they break ground for the new Arizona State Veterans' Home Yuma on Saturday.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Saturday morning to mark the beginning of the construction of the new Arizona State Veterans' Home Yuma, which is expected to be completed in mid-2021.

The 80-bed state-operated facility is being built on 11 acres of land at 6051 E. 34th St., located across Avenue 6E from Country Roads RV Village, which was donated by the City of Yuma.The first 8 acres were donated in 2014, with the remaining 3 acres added last year.

“Wherever veterans live, they deserve our services,” said Arizona Department of Veterans' Services Director and Retired Air Force Col. Wanda Wright. "Twenty four percent of the veterans in the Yuma area are over the age of 65. Now we can serve them as close to their homes, families and friends as possible. This helps families save on travel costs and helps veterans thrive.”

Wright said the 80,000-square-foot care center, which is also available to the veteran's spouse and dependents, will be broken up into three 20-bed long-term care units and one memory care unit. Each room will be furnished and private, with professionally skilled nursing staff on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The care provided will include respiratory therapy, rehabilitative work, therapeutic recreation and exercise classes as well as physical, occupational and speech therapies. Additional amenities include laundry services, housekeeping, a meditation room, a gift shop and a barber shop.

"This home will offer the same service and amenities similar to those at two current state hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson," Wright said. "We will hire about 125 employees to staff it, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, dietitians, housekeeping and administrative services."

The state veterans' department currently runs two veterans homes, a 200-bed skilled nursing facility in central Phoenix and a 120-bed facility in Tucson.

The home will also have veteran benefit counselors who will be able to assist residents in obtaining their federal and state benefits. Social Services will also be available to provide support to residents and their families.

"So really any veteran can come and get assistance," Wright added.

In speaking to the large crowd that turned out for the ceremony, which included many veterans, Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls said it was a change for the future for the area's veterans, who have given so much to the country.

"They deserve quality care, and they deserve quality care here in Yuma," Nicholls said. "And that is what this project does."

The state Legislature approved a total of $27 million for the new Yuma veterans' home, as well as one in Flagstaff, in recent years and the federal government is funding the majority of the construction costs.

The homes in Yuma and Flagstaff will be nearly identical in design and services and both will be single-story buildings.

Both projects are part of a vision the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services implemented to increase independent and assisted living options to support and care for military veterans throughout Arizona.

City Council member Edward Thomas, who chose to stay here after retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, said getting a veterans' home in Yuma was long overdue and four years in the making.

"This is a great day. I'm excited," Thomas said. "I hope, not only the veterans, but those who did not serve, are just as proud."

The Desert Lily Quilters will also be donating 80 quilts, to start with, to the home, one for each of the facility's bed. Each veteran will get to keep the quilt once they leave.

James Gilbert can be reached at jgilbert@yumasun.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.

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