Representative Mark Smith honored Gayle Hellberg this week in Marshalltown. Gayle was recognized for starting the “Adopt-a-Veteran” program at the Iowa Veterans Home.

From the Marshalltown Times-Republican

Serving up presents to those who served

Adopt-A-Veterans party held at IVH

December 12, 2011
By ANDREW POTTER – Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

Mike Collins looked down at a box with brand new headphones and some items of clothing he just received and was smiling.

“It makes my heart feel good,” said the U.S. Army veteran as he looked over his gifts during the Adopt-A-Veteran party at Iowa Veterans Home.

Collins was among 52 veterans who received gifts Sunday from people in the community who took their gift requests from downtown businesses in the 10th year of the program, which is part of the Marshalltown Central Business District. Many of the veterans have no family in the area so these gifts might be the only ones they receive this holiday season.

Gayle Hellberg started the program and has served as chair of the effort for the past decade.

“It’s a thrill every year to see how excited the residents get,” Hellberg said. “For 10 consecutive years, all the gift requests were chosen. We think that’s just fabulous.”

Hellberg is stepping down as chair of the program this year and was honored with a framed certificate of recognition from Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown and Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center.

Several of the people who bought the gifts were on hand for the party to deliver them to the veterans. Staff members of the Marshalltown Public Library chipped in to buy a DVD player, which ended up as a holiday surprise for IVH resident Bill Edmundson.

“A lot of these folks are regulars at the library,” said Sandy Gowdy, assistant director of the library. “They are our friends and we know them well.”

Aside from two gifts each, every veteran in the program also received $10 in gift coupons to use at the IVH canteen that were purchased with money donated to the program.

There were plenty of smiles going around, both from the veterans and the gift givers at the party, which also included cookies and music.

“I’m here every year and I like it,” Collins said. “I appreciate the support of the people.”