By Mike Fletcher
Tribune staff writer
— The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 28 in Kokomo is trying to raise $15,000 by April 1 to buy a new van. The DAV has already raised $10,000 of the $25,000 needed to buy the van, which will be used to transport veterans to area veterans hospitals.
Terry Baumfalk, first junior vice commander the local DAV, is hoping for huge crowds at Ruby Tuesday Bar and Grill this next month to help with the fundraising effort.
On Thursday, Baumfalk and several others from the local chapter greeted customers at Ruby Tuesday on Southway Boulevard in hopes of spreading the word about the fundraiser and its importance.
The fundraiser is part of Ruby Tuesday’s Community Give Back Program.
Baumfalk said he's spoken to several customers since the fundraiser began Jan. 27 and is pleased with the support.
"I had one lady last week give us a $300 check," Baumfalk said. “We just need to get the word out to people that we have to buy these vans.”
Every Thursday through March 27, customers who show their server the DAV flyer will receive a 20 percent discount off meals and the proceeds will go toward the DAV van fund.
The flyers can be picked up at the Howard County Veterans Service office, the VFW Post 1152, American Legion Post 6, WWKI radio station or by going to www.kokomotribune.com.
Click here to download a copy of the DAV flyer to be used at Ruby Tuesday
“Our DAV Chapter No. 28 will have to come up with $25,000 by April 1, so the new DAV van can be purchased that we ordered from the Ford Motor company,” said Baumfalk. "So far, we have raised about $10,000."
He said while the state DAV covers the maintenance and insurance, the local chapter are responsible for buying the vans.
The DAV has three vans — two owned by the chapter and one borrowed — that average 12,000 miles a month transporting veterans to the Marion VA or to the Indianapolis VA hospital. They transport over a thousand veterans a year, said DAV member Jerry Fivecoate.
One of the vans is a 2004 and is out of service due to high mileage prompting the effort to buy another one. It has in excess of 200,000 miles.
Paul Pristach, a veteran serving from 1955 to 1958, is one of a handful of the volunteers who drive the vans.
“This is my way of giving back since I didn’t have to go overseas,” Pristach said Thursday at Ruby Tuesday.
The program to resulted after the Department of Veterans Affairs stopped reimbursing veterans in 1987 for the cost of transportation to and from medical facilities due to budget cuts.
That left tens of thousands of veterans without transportation and cut off from their medical care.
Now, the DAV fills the gap.
After the cuts, the DAV organized a nationwide transportation network to make sure the veterans received the transportation they needed.
Since the inception of the transportation network, DAV volunteers have driven 555,702,839 miles, donated 30,676,568 hours of service and provided 14,826,805 free rides to veterans.
"The DAV is here to ensure that no veteran will ever have to neglect their health because they cannot afford transportation," said Baumfalk.
People can also donate to the DAV van fund by sending checks to Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 28, P.O. Box 81, Kokomo, IN 46903.
Mike Fletcher can be reached at 765-454-8565 or firstname.lastname@example.org