They came bearing gifts for veterans

A smile poked through underneath the big mustache of Al Umpers, a resident at the Iowa Veterans Home.

Umpers just unwrapped the gift a chess set at the Adopt-A-Veteran Christmas Party Sunday night.

The party is highlighted with gifts presented to a group of veterans who have no family in the area and might not receive anything else for the holiday.

“It’s fun,” said Umpers, who is a U.S. Navy veteran. “It’s nice to know that someone is thinking of the vets out there.”

The event is organized by volunteers from the Marshalltown Central Business District, led by Randy Kessler. The winter storm may have kept some of the public away, but still dozens of people showed up to support the veterans and take part in the holiday party.

“They love it,” Kessler said of the veterans. “They don’t have anybody to spend the holidays with. This is their Christmas party.”

The event also featured an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus and a performance by the Marshalltown High School student holiday singers.

Donna Ball was one of the volunteers who handed out dozens of gifts.

“I love it to see the guys enjoy themselves,” Ball said.

The gifts are donated by shoppers who take stars, which are gift requests from IVH residents, at area businesses.

Kessler appreciated the support of the community to again fill all of the gifts requests.

“The stars all went fairly quickly,” Kessler said.

Aside from two gifts each, the set of 61 veterans also each received $25 worth of coupons to spend at the IVH canteen.