Assisted-living center for wounded combat veterans gets OK from Omaha City Council

U.S. troops wounded in combat who lack the family or financial support to care for themselves at home could soon have another housing option.

The Omaha City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved zoning changes and early plans for the Dunham House, a 40-acre military-focused assisted-living complex.

The first step in the project calls for building an administration building and two housing units near 120th Street and Rainwood Road in northwest Omaha.

Those buildings would house 22 to 24 combat veterans who suffered traumatic brain injuries, with plans to build more housing units and serve as many as 125 veterans.

The veterans served might need help buttoning a shirt, using the bathroom or taking a bath, but could live independently with a little help, organizers said. These veterans don’t need the additional medical support of a nursing home.

Starting construction is contingent on continued private fundraising by Wounded Warriors Family Support, an Omaha-based nonprofit started by retired Marine Col. John Folsom.

His local group raises money nationally to support the families of troops wounded or killed in combat. The group had raised more than $2 million, Folsom said.

It needs to raise about $11 million to make the project a reality. Tuesday’s 7-0 vote to shift future industrial land to residential use was a key step, Folsom said.

Having the zoning and plat approved should help Wounded Warriors Family Support secure more support from donors, Folsom and former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub said.

“This now really paves the way for our efforts to raise money for the first buildings,” Daub said.

City Council members Aimee Melton, Brinker Harding and Rich Pahls praised organizers for the nature of the project and the support it has garnered.

Melton said she heard about the project from her son, whose school wrote letters of support for Wounded Warriors Family Support that the group used to raise funds.

Dunham House, if it raises the necessary funds, plans an admissions committee to weigh the needs of applicants with the services it offers.

Wounded Warriors Family Support Inc. bought 80 acres of land at the rural northwest Omaha site for $1 million in January. The 40 acres on the north end of the site will house veterans.

Folsom said his group has not decided what to do with the southern 40 acres but said it might work with someone to turn the land into a nature preserve.

“If we can get Omaha involved, we’re in the center of the country,” Folsom said. “We can attract people from all over, nationally.”

He said he hopes to start construction “as soon as possible.”

Aaron covers political news for The World-Herald.
Follow him on Twitter @asanderford
402-444-1135


A Family on a Mission: Care center for Wounded Warriors could come to Omaha

OMAHA, NE - WOWT 6 - A family is making it their mission to help build a home for the brave in their neighborhood.

The home would help wounded warriors, specifically those with a brain and spinal cord injuries. There is just one hurdle - the land isn't zoned properly.

"There are 80 acres right here that is zoned as agriculture. The wish is to rezone it to residential so w can build this house for the wounded warriors," said Heather Goertz.

Right now the project is moving slowly because Goertz says the Planning Commission has slotted the piece of land for industrial use in the distant future.

The facility would cost around $10 million dollars and would be close enough to Omaha for medical facilities and other support.

"We don't want them to live out their lives in a long-term care assisted facility where they feel like they are the odd man out. We would like for them to have a place they can call home," said Goertz.

Wounded Warriors Family Support would build and operate the 24 bedroom facility. They would like to have it opened by Christmas of 2020.


Omaha nonprofit works to create care facility for veterans with brain injuries

OMAHA, NE. - FOX 42 KPTM - A new hospital dedicated to helping veterans is setting down roots in Omaha. The Dunham House will work exclusively with veterans who have been injured in combat.

Within the next year Wounded Warrior Family Support (WWFS) hopes to break ground, transforming a plot of land in rural Douglas County into a world class hospital to treat veterans that suffer from spinal cord and brain injuries sustained in combat.

Wounded Warriors Family Support President, and retired USMC Colonel John Folsom got the idea to create the care facility after meeting a young soldier at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. The soldier had suffered a brain injury when an improvised explosive device (IED) was set off near his head in Iraq.

“The theme to recognize that service and sacrifice of one's life was from John 15:13 ‘ Greater man hath no love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” Folsom said.

That scripture is guiding Folsom and his team to raise funds to create Dunham House, care facility focused on helping veterans who could otherwise not live independently on their own, due to their extreme injuries.

The hospital is named after Corporal Jason Dunham, a Marine that used his body to shield his fellow Marines from a grenade in Husaybah, Iraq in 2004. Dunham was hospitalized for 8 days before passing away at the age of 22.

The facility is designed to provide care to veterans with severe brain and spinal cord injuries sustained during combat.

“We bring in combat wounded veterans from all over the United States to come live here as long as they want,” Folsom said.

The 24 bed, 16,000 sq foot facility, will cost approximately $10 million to finish. Folsom says the hospital will provide care beyond what is offered at a veterans home.

“This facility is specifically designed for those combat wounded Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors whose parents can no longer take care of them, they have no family members who can take care of them,"Folsom said.

Folsom said the goal is to give veterans a place to age with the support they need.

“Many cases there is no rehabilitation, there is no getting back to a normal life. They will never be back to a normal life,” Folsom said. “Mild TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] can grow into a more moderate to severe TBI as one ages.”

The facility will be built on an 80 acre plot near the intersection of Rainwood Road and 120th street.Wounded Warrior Family Support is waiting on approval from the Omaha City Council and Omaha Planning Board to rezone the property into a residential plot to allow them to begin construction.

Organizers say they hope to have the Dunham open in time for Christmas of 2020. Folsom said the WWFS has raised approximately a fourth of the funds they need to build the Dunham House.


Proposed assisted-living center for wounded veterans has a site northwest of Omaha

A nonprofit group founded by a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel has obtained a site and is marching toward city zoning approvals for a proposed assisted-living center for wounded veterans in suburban Omaha.

That constitutes a step forward for retired Col. John Folsom’s vision, but it still has a long trek ahead before becoming reality. He estimates that it will cost $11 million, and the group has about $2 million on hand, Folsom said.

The site is farm ground northwest of 120th Street and Rainwood Road. That’s about a half-mile west of the Omaha Public Safety Training Center in a mostly rural area northwest of Omaha.

Wounded Warriors Family Support, the Omaha-based nonprofit that Folsom founded to support families of U.S. troops wounded or killed in combat, proposes to build a 24-bed residential home for combat-wounded veterans who have no one in their lives capable of providing day-to-day care. It could someday house as many as 100 veterans in 10 home-like living units adjacent to an administrative building.

Folsom said it would serve people who were severely wounded in combat, including those who suffered traumatic brain injuries, an all-too-common occurrence in the United States’ wars in this century.

“These soldiers and sailors would come from all over the States,” he said. “A lot of them are living with their parents. Mom and Dad are going to age out and not be able to take care of them anymore. ... They’re going to get dumped in a civilian assisted-living facility. We think we can do better.”

Wounded Warriors Family Support Inc. paid $1 million to purchase 80 acres of farmland from Mount Calvary Commandery #1 in January, according to Douglas County records.

Wounded Warriors hopes to build its facility on the northern half of the property. It hasn’t said what it would do with the southern 40 acres.

The organization is asking the City of Omaha to rezone the property from agricultural to residential. The city’s future land use map envisions the land as being home to industry someday, but city planners have indicated that they think it would be acceptable to change that to residential.

City planners want Wounded Warriors to submit suitable plans for building a street from Rainwood Road into its building site, widening Rainwood Road for a turn lane and creating a stub street for future development.

The street off Rainwood Road would have to be built to withstand heavy-duty vehicles because adjoining property is still planned as future industrial land.

City planners also want the organization to submit analyses of trees and any wetlands on the property. And they want the developers to coordinate with the Omaha Public Works Department on connecting to a sanitary sewer line.

Those are all standard requirements for a development in such an area. The Omaha Planning Board voted last week to postpone a vote on preliminary plans and rezoning for the site to give the organization time to work on the details.

HDR Inc. representatives have been working with city planners and are confident they will have those details worked out in time for a Planning Board vote in August, said Robert Hailey of HDR, the lead architect on the project.

Hailey, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, said city planning officials have reacted positively to the design. As for the proposed housing arrangement, Hailey said it is the type of footprint the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants to move toward: smaller, family-like living quarters, or pods, around a larger common building.

Meanwhile, Folsom is hoping that the idea catches on with donors.

“I think it will, if somehow we can get national attention on this,” he said. “I don’t believe that anybody in America is doing what we’re proposing to do.”



Colonel Folsom discusses the mission of the Dunham House and Zoning Issues with KMTV’s Alex McLoon

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A Nebraska veteran support group which offers care-giving services to wounded veterans wants to build a facility in Omaha.

The organization says the building near Bennington would be a serene place for veterans and close to other care facilities in the area. Before they can build, the group not only needs $10 million, but permission from the city.

Colonel John Folsom founded Wounded Warriors Family Support, which helps injured veterans and their families with care-giving services. The organization hopes to build a care center to assist injured service members dealing with spine and brain injuries. Colonel Folsom's inspiration to help others came after meeting an injured soldier and his family about ten years ago.

"What struck me was that his mother would have to take care of him," Colonel Folsom said.

Then came a realization.

"What will happen to this young soldier and others like him who are being cared for by their parents when they're no longer able to take of themselves because of their health problems?"

Wounded Warriors Family Support has plans to build a combat wounded veterans residence. They're on their way to raising $10 million for the facility, but first need the city to rezone their piece of land.

The 80-acre site off 120th and Rainwood Road near Bennington is where the organization is looking to build the 24 bedroom facility. It's a bean field now, but Colonel Folsom says it will soon be a place veterans from around the country can seek day-to-day living assistance.

Colonel Folsom is confident city officials will rezone the land.

"One-hundred percent. It's the right thing to do," he said.

The namesake for what will be called the Dunham House comes from the late Corporal Jason Dunham. He was 22 when he covered a grenade that detonated in Iraq. Dunham was on life support for eight days.

Colonel Folsom never met Dunham, but says the marine's life, sacrifice and service will live on through this facility.

"I'm quite sure the city planning board will see the value of what we're doing and understand the importance and agree to rezone it residential."

A representative with the city planning department couldn't be reached Tuesday. If the land is not rezoned, Colonel Folsom and Wounded Warriors Family Support plans to approach city council.

By: Alex McLoon


Dunham House Site Plan Concept Image

HDR has release initial site plans for the Duhnam House.  The ideas on access, layout, structures are starting to take form.  Click below to see the high-resolution images.