Volunteer group raises money for ‘the extras’ to help spruce up Illinois Veterans Home grounds – Muddy River News
From left, Teresa Pickle, Cathy Shanks and Linda King stand in the Shirlee Northern Memorial Garden at the Illinois Veterans Home. The three women created “Cherish the Memories”, which raises funds to supplement the work of the state and Veterans Administration at home. | david adam
QUINCY — A simple Facebook post asking to fix rusty benches eventually led to the creation of a group of people dedicated to raising money to spruce up the grounds of the Illinois Veterans Home.
Teresa Pickle and Cathy Shanks, retired nurses at home, have teamed up with Linda King to coordinate Cherish the Memories, which raises funds to supplement state and Veterans Administration work at home.
“The VA, they’re going to maintain the buildings,” Pickle said. “But they don’t maintain extras.”
“There are no funds for extras,” Shanks said.
One of the most visible extras is the renovation work on the “Soldiers and Sailors Home” sign at the entrance to the house near the intersection of Eighth and Locust, which was recently completed.
Nine original cast iron urns in front of the stone building of the house and in front of the mansion, which date back to at least the early 1900s, are re-welded in a local welding shop. A fountain, which was on the boulevard du 12e The street entrance is moved to the Shirlee Northern Memorial Garden.
“As volunteers, it’s so rewarding to give back,” Shanks said. “The community stepped up 135 years ago to get the Veterans Home, and now the community is stepping up again to beautify this place.
King was visiting Lynn Deer Park with her children, Bradly and Madilyn, in October 2020 when she noticed 10 wrought iron benches were deteriorating. She wrote a Facebook post about the benches and asked if anyone was interested in helping her restore them. Shanks didn’t want the post to encourage people to come forward and start fixing things on the property, so she wrote to King and told him she would help.
“I look after the memorial garden and said the master gardeners would pay to have a bench restored,” Shanks said. “Then 24 hours later she had 100 responses from people wanting to do the 10 benches.”
Shanks and King then met with a group of veterans home employees, including administrator Troy Culbertson. Sara Colgrove, director of volunteer services and activities at the house, suggested partnering with AMVETS, a volunteer-run nonprofit military organization that built the lodge next to Lynn Deer Park in the 1990s.
Once AMVETS Warrant Officer Pickle got involved, his organization eventually helped pay for the restoration of 51 benches across the grounds.
“(The benches) are all from different eras because different groups like AMVETS, the American Legion and Purple Heart paid for them,” Shanks said. “Some were (paid) by individuals. Fortunately, they were all made with the same kind of style.
As part of the restoration project, the group will identify the names of each organization that paid for the bench with an engraved plaque.
Pickle said money for the bench project has poured in from across the country and as far away as Australia. There were plenty left after the project was completed.
“What are we going to do? Well, we’re going to buy picnic tables,” Pickle said.
Nineteen powder-coated steel tube picnic tables – four handicapped accessible – plus two game tables were purchased.
As new projects on the Veterans Home property were completed, Cherish the Memories found more to do. The group purchased an aeration system for the pond, replaced the wrought iron scrollwork around Lynn Deer Park, and paid to have the bandstand, pavilion, and cart repainted.
They repaired the fence at the gate near Eighth Street, and the land also paid to have signs made about Lynn Deer Park, the Bison Home, Lake Illinois, and the Veterans Home itself. They created another sign acknowledging people who donated at least $125 for bench restoration. The group also wants to renovate the guardhouse, which requires work on the chimney and the porch.
“Everyone who worked on this project either volunteered their time and services or significantly reduced what they would charge to do all of this,” Pickle said.
When asked why they were involved in so many projects at home, Pickle and Shanks both replied at the same time, “Why not?”
“I love Quincy, I love the community, I love the veterans,” Shanks said. “We were supported by everyone.”
Pickle said she walked around Quincy one day with her husband to write down the names of businesses she eventually sent letters to, asking for donations.
“Then the big money started coming in,” she said. “It’s like gifts from God.”
Cherish the Moments has also received grants from local organizations, while all donations raised “continue to grow before our eyes,” Shanks said.
“We have a mansion that we could redo if someone wants to donate a million,” Shanks said with a laugh.
Further transformation work is also underway at the veterans’ home.
The Quincy Illinois Veterans Home Renovation and Rehabilitation Act was part of the Rebuild Illinois capital bill that was signed into law in June 2019. It planned to spend $230 million to build a state-of-the-art qualified facility with 210 beds and a home with 80 beds at the 12th and Locust campuses.
“The construction that’s going on here is amazing,” Pickle said. “The timing is so perfect to spruce up what’s already there, plus we’re keeping the old, and our storyboards will tell some of those stories.”
Troy Culbertson, administrator of the Illinois Veterans Home, called the work of the Cherish the Moments group “invaluable.”
“Their attention to things like the new park benches and the restoration painting of the wrought iron fences has really enhanced these areas,” he said. “They also worked seamlessly with the American Legion National Auxiliary Office for grant funding, which was a great addition to the project. The restoration of the Eighth Street Gate promises to be the ultimate accomplishment for this group of IVHQ supporters. We are grateful for their support.
Pickle has a big plan she hopes to accomplish.
“We want to do an amphitheater in the garden below and then bring Bon Jovi and AC/DC to play,” she said with a laugh.
To contribute to the Cherish the Memories group, visit their page on Facebook or call Pickle at 217-257-7953.
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