OWATONNA — It has been a process that has taken years to complete, but on Thursday the residents at Koda Living Community were able to embark on the first of many adventures.
Through the Koda Foundation, the assisted living facility was able to acquire a bus to transport groups of residents to different events and outings. The first of many landed on Senior Day at the Steele County Free Fair, where three bus-loads of excited seniors were able to enjoy lunch at the Aurora Dinner and relive fond memories of growing up at the fair.
“Before this, we would rent a handicap van that if we could remove a seat we could transport two residents at a time to the fair,” said Steve Arnold, the director of marketing and development at Koda. “We would start shuttling them back and forth at 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. That was all we did all day long.”
Last summer, however, the foundation was able to take note of the benefit that a bus would bring the facility. Just before Memorial Day in 2018, Koda took a group of residents to visit the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Austin, Minnesota. Among those residents was Martha Harra, a gold star mother who was never able to say goodbye to her son who died in Vietnam. For the first time in 50 years, Harra was able to locate the name of her son on the Memorial Wall, a story that would go on to touch the hearts of all those involved in Koda.
“That was the story we needed,” Arnold explained. “That is how we got the bus.”
For all those at Koda, the outing to the fair this week has been a positive and uplifting experience. Arnold said that the fair has been more than accommodating, allowing the bus to park right up next to the Aurora Dinner — a favorite among the residents. Arnold said that he is looking forward to the many trips the bus will allow the residents to take, whether it be to the annual marching band festival or just a drive around in the fall to watch the leaves change.
“These residents are at Koda every day. It’s their home and they have a sense of community and comfort there,” Arnold said. “But when we can get them out and about, especially to relieve memories like the ones that they have at the fair, it gives them something to look forward to and enjoy.”
“These people grew up here and they know the fair,” he continued. “Coming here brings meaning and enjoyment to their lives.”
In September, Koda will have an official blessing of the new bus with Harra as a guest of honor. At that time they will bring in donors who helped make the bus possible, clergy from the community, and families of the residents. There will be refreshments, an open hours, and, of course, free bus rides.