story and photo by Van Mitchell, Staff Writer
Kimberly Bolman, a United States Marine veteran, purchased a home in Blanchard, and planned to live there before two strokes changed her direction.
Today, she is a resident of Acclaim Living, located at 12525 N Pennsylvania Avenue in Oklahoma City, in part due to the fact that more than half of their residents are veterans and now call it home.
“I bought a house in Blanchard and then I had two strokes,” Bolman said. “Just having the veterans alone here attracted me. No matter what service you served in, the camaraderie is there. We all get help.”
Having a veteran presence was also appealing to Jess Thomas, United States Army veteran, and his wife Carol Thomas, who also call Acclaim Living home.
“We were wanting to downsize and move into a senior community, and we wanted one that we could be active in and that I didn’t have to worry about Jess, he is independent, but he doesn’t have full speech because he has a facial stroke,” Carol Thomas said. “So, if he wants to go out and do things on his own here, I don’t care. I know everybody knows him and I know that he’s in good hands if anything happens. We just felt really like we were home when we came in here.”
Mrs. Thomas said the Acclaim Living staff treats residents like they were family.
“The staff that works here doesn’t treat you like residents,” she said. “They treat more like family and it’s just a good atmosphere. They support veterans very well here. It is important to us. It’s important that we have people that support the veterans, that support us and keep our freedom.”
Polly Milligan serves as Residence Director at Acclaim Living. She said it is a privilege serving veterans.
“It’s important to me,” she said. “I’ve been a director for over 15 years and I’ve always put a huge focus on veterans because that’s where I see the largest amount of people get lost in the mix. Any of the communities that I’ve run have always had a huge veteran focus, as well as outreach programs, to get them in when other communities won’t accept them because they’ve maybe struggled with some PTSD issues or something like that. Then, those are the ones that I really reach out to, because a better environment can aid in settling that PTSD.”
Steve Sibley a retired Army veteran with Sibley Insures, who educates and advocates for veteran’ health benefits, recently visited Acclaimed Living, and brought in Veteran Affairs officials via the VA’s community outreach programs for veterans which are services that help veterans access health care, benefits and resources in various settings.
“The VA has a community outreach,” Sibley said. “It’s a focus on mental health outreach for veterans, and they meet weekly at the Black Rifle Coffee, which is just about a mile north of here. They’re (Acclaim Living) actually now scheduled to go to take veterans to that event twice a month. It’s a weekly event, but twice a month they actually will bus veterans out and it’s been a really cool deal. They (Acclaim Living) actually take people down to the VA for appointments, I think that’s really cool. So, that’s just another thing that they do here.”
Milligan said Acclaim Living stays in contact with the VA to let veterans know about housing options.
“We stay in touch with the VA housing department to see if there are people that are looking for placement that are, maybe, on the waiting list for a VA center and they don’t quite qualify yet, because of need,” she said. “We try to get our information to them so that they know that there’s a place that most likely would fit within their budget with their aid and attendance funds”
Milligan said Acclaim Living offers a variety of housing.
“Handicap accessible apartments are available,” she said. “And then, we have just regular home apartments that are available. It includes all of their utilities, their cable television, activities, transportation. We’ll take them to their appointments if they need that. All of their meals, everything’s right here included for them so that it’s a one stop shop for what they need.”
Mrs. Johnson serves as an Acclaim Living Ambassador, and she and her husband help welcome new residents.
“It’s made of residents that have been here for a certain length of time that are outgoing and want to help,” she said. “Then when a new resident comes, they hook that resident up with an ambassador that has similar interests and they fill out a form for that, and then we work with that new person and take them through the whole building, making sure that they know where everything is, how everything operates. We eat with them. We take them to different functions within the building and so, until they get comfortable and know people, so that they’re not just dumped in the door. We make them part of the community.”
Milligan said Acclaim Living honors its veteran residents with a variety of activities.
“We do activities that are in honor of our veterans, we try to do that a few times a year for different pinning, or just recognition, in general, of the veterans,” she said. “We always recognize our veterans on the veteran wall in our community and those are ones that have been here before, and are here now. So, it’s a history of our veterans that are displayed on our veteran wall. And then, we try to go to places that get them in touch with other veterans or happenings that are going on in Oklahoma City, so they can be a part of what other veterans are doing.”
For more information on Acclaim Living call (405)-755-3200. or visit https://legendseniorliving.com/.