116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A nonprofit veterans’ organization made a dream come true for its late founder and president who won’t get to see his legacy unfold Saturday with the open house of a retreat lodge in Washington County for veterans and their families to use while healing.
Troy White, 59, a retired Army sergeant of rural Monroe, recalled meeting Chuck “Bowtie” Geertz, founder and president of Healing at English River Outfitters — HERO, after White retired in 2004 and was looking for a veterans’ organization to support.
“Chuck sold me on the place back when hewas working out of a camper” on the retreat property, White said. “I helped raise $5,000 for the first cabin. I was working for Pella (Corp.) at the time and they gave us a matching grant for the project.”
HERO started in 2008 with a mission to provide a relaxing recreation area for Iowa veterans and their families, said Rod Courtney, president and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. The organization promotes experiences in nature as a way for men and women, along with their families, to heal physically and mentally.
White said he “sort of lost touch” with the lodge plans after Geertz, 63, died in August 2019 of injuries in a motorcycle crash. It was just too difficult for him to be involved after losing his good friend.
But he later reconnected and started working with hundreds of other veteran volunteers or those supporting veterans working on the three-story, five-bedroom lodge.
The outpouring of help to build the lodge -- mainly through word-of-mouth -- has been overwhelming, White said.
The pandemic slowed things down, but Todd Hahn, a general contractor and U.S. Navy veteran, “kick-started” the building after that and became vice president of the organization.
Hahn set up a “barn raising” event last October with volunteers showing up from throughout Eastern Iowa who had skills in construction, design, lumber, engineering, plumbing and landscaping, Courtney said.
Other build days followed. HERO has received many donations from individuals, organizations and companies and also some grants for the project.
Courtney said the lodge also has a great room and conference area that can be used for peer support and PTSD groups and for retreats to help those dealing with military sexual trauma. Those events and activities will expand now that the lodge is available.
White said he, along with others, have been putting the final touches on the lodge this week in preparation for the open house on Saturday.
It’s easy to get behind a good cause,” White said. “This is a place for all my brothers and sisters who are suffering — it’s a safe place for them to come. This place is for any veteran who needs a place to feel at home.”
The open house is from 12 to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 2, at HERO Lodge, 2564 305th St., Washington. The Washington County Chamber of Commerce will do a ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off the event.
The band Richie Lee and the Fabulous Fifties will perform, a bouncy castle will be set up for the kids and there also will be resource tables for veterans and their families and a raffle for a Yamee Fat Bear 750S Fat Tire bike.
Food will be available from Mission BBQ of Davenport — a veterans-based business, and Hahn Catering of Riverside also will be serving pork loins and side dishes.
If anyone is interested volunteering for HERO can contact Rod Courtney, 319-594-3431.
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