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Haunted Barn serves local veterans including vets’ homeless shelter

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LADORA, Iowa (KWWL) -- There is no debate that 2020 has been a scary year. An annual October attraction, 2020 is a great theme to bring in visitors so they can continue to support local organizations.

The "Haunted Barn" in Ladora has a new location this year while adapting to COVID-19.

"We actually extended when we would have our alarm, to let us know when to let people in so that it allows 5 to 6 minutes in between different groups so that there's not going to be a bottle neck effect," said Jenni Olson, one of the barn's organizers.

They've added masks and restrict visitors from combining groups.

Although this group describes themselves as a family of "spooks" who are passionate about their "spooking."

"'Spooking' is a term for individuals who want to come here, don a mask, and scare other people," said Olson, who dresses up as a character in the Haunted Barn with her family.

While their rooms and haunts may be scary, they come from a place of compassion.

"There's no greed, it's all about giving back, something i think needs to happen a lot more," said volunteer Dan Gingerich.

"We don't do this to turn a profit we do this to help the community," Olson said.

Every night they spook, they spook with a cause as every Friday and Saturday they're open they fundraise for a local charity.

Causes range from local firefighters to small charities to LZ Phoenix, the only homeless shelter that caters solely to veterans in Iowa.

"Most individuals who are spooking are veterans, they're veterans spouses, they're veteran fans. It's like a family," Olson said.

Once they pay for advertising and the insurance, costing about 25% of what they make every year, the rest goes to those groups they support.

Olson says they often try to pick two charities for the first weekend to receive a larger cut.

"The rest of the profits throughout the year will be divided between scholarships and other organizations in Iowa County," Olson said.

The first weekend is the REA, Rural Employment Alternatives, in Iowa County and LZ Phoenix.

The shelter's program lasts for 90 days, hoping to give struggling veterans and their families the resources to get back on their feet. LZ Phoenix is completely funded by the community through private donations and organization sponsorships.

"Due to COVID-19, fundraising and donations have taken a significant hit but our board members and volunteers have given their heart and soul to our programs," said the shelter's executive director Neal Jarnagin.

Jarnagin says he took part in last year's "Veterans Night" at the Haunted Barn, meeting dozens of community members eager to support veterans.

"The community has been a tremendous support with items needed on a daily basis but fundraisers like the Haunted Barn help with our most basic financial needs like our mortgage, utilities, and the like," Jarnagin said.


It's a little odd, but not really if you think about it, that a place so scary can bring so much joy.

"It's something thats fun, it's something where you have a team, and its team oriented and its something where we give back to the community and make the community a better place," Olson said.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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