Veterans Home of California Yountville
The Veterans Home of California is located in Yountville, California and was founded in 1884. The facility is the largest of its kind in the United States and has a population of 1100 aged and disabled veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, War in Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. Several levels of care are offered to residents including domicillary services, residential care for the elderly, intermediate nursing care, skilled nursing care, adult day health care and outpatient clinic.
The grounds of the facility include the 1,214 seat Lincoln Theater (home of Symphony Napa Valley, Orchestra Institute Napa Valley as well as a robust education program), a 9-hole golf course, recreational vehicle park, baseball stadium, bowling alley, swimming pool, U.S. Post Office and a military base exchange branch store. All of these facilities are available for use by resident veterans at no additional cost. Additionally, the home offers services specifically for residents including a fitness center, a resident operated television station, auto hobby shop, a 35,000 volume library, creative arts center, and a multi-faith chapel. A cemetery on the grounds holds the graves of over 5,500 veterans and their spouses dating back to the Spanish- American War of 1898.
In 1877, the Grand Army of the Republic, first secured land in San Francisco for a veterans home however the property was deemed not appropriate. After exploring several alternatives, on Oct. 24, 1882, a 910 acres (3.7 km2) site was purchased in Yountville for $17,500. By 1884 when the facility opened, funds raised to buy the property and erect the original buildings had all been spent, and the association established in San Francisco by the Society of Mexican War Veterans and the GAR was bankrupt. In the decade that followed, both the Veterans Home and the Napa Valley struggled through difficult financial times until private association was formed and was responsible for the home. It secured funding from both the State of California and the Federal Government, but in 1896 Washington determined that it could no longer fund a privately operated facility and withdrew its financial support. The association had no choice but to turn the Veterans Home over to the State of California in 1897. The state paid the association $20 and officially changed the name to the Veterans Home of California at Yountville. At the time the state took over the home, it had an estimated value of $320,000 and consisted of 55 steam heated buildings with electric lighting, running water and a sewer system. The grounds also had a successful dairy, hog farm, chicken ranch and was the home for 800 veterans of the Mexican, Civil, and Indian wars.
Early 20th Century
Col. Nelson M. Holderman, a World War I veteran and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor was appointed commandant of the home in 1919. Although this combat-hardened soldier would fight many bureaucratic battles on behalf of the home, his biggest challenge would come from the Civil War veterans at the home and on its board who resisted changes he was advocating. Not wanting a confrontation with these old vets, he resigned as commandant in 1921, vowing to return. After several members passed from the board, Col. Holderman returned to his position as commandant in 1926 and remained there until his death in 1953. He is generally credited with a revitalization of the Veterans Home that can be seen and felt until today.
Holderman was able to overcome many political and bureaucratic roadblocks during his tenure, and he replaced and remodeled many of the run-down administrative and residential buildings, as well as planted the now mature grove of towering trees from around the world, known as Holderman’s Grove. Significantly, in 1929 he was also able to oversee the construction of a 500-bed hospital that the home had needed for years.
Late 20th Century
In the 1970s, the home faced another financial crisis. Decreased funding was having a degrading effect on facilities and staffing, to the point that the future of the home was in question. The California Health and Human Services Agency and United States Department of Health and Human Services were both threatening to withdraw certification from the home. The California State Legislature took action, approving a $100 million renovation master plan, reinforcing California's commitment, of over 100 years, to its veterans.
The Home Today
More than halfway through the renovation program, the Veterans' Home of California at Yountville is home to almost 1,200 veterans, including almost 150 women veterans and nearly 30 couples.
The home's current director Donald Veverka took over the position in 2014. Veverka replaced retired Navy Commander Marcella McCormack who retired in September 2013 following an audit by the State that highlighted agreements made with private vendors for an adventure park and cafe without the consent of the state Veterans Affairs or General Services departments.
Veterans share their input and recommendations through the Veterans' Home Allied Council, an official advisory body to the administrator. The home's annual operating budget is $47 million, half of which is provided by the California general fund; the remainder by other sources, including federal reimbursements and member fees. The Veterans' Home of California Yountville continues to enjoy tremendous support from citizens, service clubs and veterans organizations throughout the state. Their help makes many of the services provided by the home possible in a time of increasing fiscal problems at the state level. The home is a focal point for service organizations, including AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and The American Legion, to name a few of the most active, who represent thousands of veterans throughout the state and make their presence felt at the home.
The Home, nestled in the verdant Wine Country of northern California, also houses the alternate Seat of Government for the Governor's office, and shares that duty with another State facility at Fresno.
- O’DEA GAUGHAN, Timothy (March 22, 2009). "Veterans Home marks 125 years". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- Yune, Howard (July 24, 2011). "Yountville: Where old vets go to live". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved September 29, 2011.
- Howard Yune (2014-03-09). "New director chosen for Yountville Veterans Home". Napa Valley Register (Napa Valley Publishing).
- "Updated: Veterans Home accused of wasting about $650,000". Napa Valley Register (Napa Valley Publishing). 2013-10-17.
- "Veterans Home administrator retires after 13 years". Napa Valley Register (Napa Valley Publishing). 2013-09-28.
- Veterans Home of California Yountville website
- History of the Veterans Home of California Yountville