By Martin Slagter Kokomo Tribune
---- — A bond between veterans and an outpouring of community support will result in a new van for the local Disabled American Veterans Chapter 28.
In just two months, the local DAV has teamed up with Ruby Tuesday on Southway Boulevard to raise $25,000 toward the purchase of a new van, which will be used to transport veterans to area veterans hospitals. The fundraiser was made possible through Ruby Tuesday’s Community Give Back Program.
Terry Baumfalk, first junior vice commander for the local DAV, said he was “100 percent confident” the DAV will raise enough money to purchase the new van with a final fundraiser scheduled for Saturday at the IBN Saud Grotto in Kokomo.
“They’ve been very responsive,” Baumfalk said. “We’ve had the best public response ever for this [fundraiser]. We started [this fundraiser] with $280 in our savings account, so this has been great to see the support.”
Money for the purchase of the six-passenger van was raised by having customers show their server a special flyer to receive a 20 percent discount off meals.
Ruby Tuesday General Manager Matthew Kenison, who also is a veteran, said helping with the fundraising effort was personal.
“I really wanted to be a part of this because I’m a veteran,” he said. “I love being a part of something like this and I know the community in Kokomo loves it, too.”
The van will served a much-needed purpose for the DAV, which 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.
With one of the DAV’s vans out of service due to high mileage, volunteer driver and veteran Paul Pristach said the new van will help with the demand of taking veterans to their appointments.
“Expense-wise, this [current] van will start killing us,” he said of the costs to maintain the current van. “They’re expensive to repair. We carry approximately 20 to 28 veterans a week and right now I’ve got two vans on the road.”
Since the inception of the transportation network, DAV volunteers have driven more than 555,702,839 miles, donated 30,676,568 hours of service and provided 14,826,805 free rides to veterans.
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.
Martin Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8570, email@example.com or on Twitter @slagterm.