2015-02-10 / Front Page

Veterans Of Owen County Fund Supports New Vehicle Purchase

by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer


Owen County Veterans Services Officer Mike Harvey and transportation coordinator Joe Goldman (right) are actively seeking available funding sources in an effort to replace this Ford Escape, which is used to transport local veterans to and from the VA hospital in Indianapolis. (Staff Photo) Owen County Veterans Services Officer Mike Harvey and transportation coordinator Joe Goldman (right) are actively seeking available funding sources in an effort to replace this Ford Escape, which is used to transport local veterans to and from the VA hospital in Indianapolis. (Staff Photo) Just 23,000 more miles or 383 more trips from Spencer to Indianapolis stand between the Owen County Veterans Services Office and the retirement of its much used transportation vehicle provided by the Veterans Administration (VA).

The county’s military veterans are offered free transportation to and from the Indianapolis-based VA hospital thanks in large part to the efforts of Owen County Veterans Services Officer Mike Harvey and transportation coordinator Joe Goldman.

While the free service relies heavily on volunteer drivers, Goldman himself is often behind the wheel.

Goldman and volunteer drivers utilize the VA provided Ford Escape, a four-passenger sport utility vehicle, while a mini van donated long ago by the county’s probation department is used to transport veterans to and from VA clinics in Bloomington and Terre Haute.

The VA covers the cost of gasoline, maintenance and insurance for the Ford Escape; which will only remain in Owen County’s possession until the vehicle reaches the 100,000 mile mark. After the milestone, the vehicle will return to the VA and the County will be left to purchase a replacement. The new vehicle will then be maintained by the VA, including the cost of gas, oil changes, license and registration, insurance, and general maintenance. The new vehicle, once it reaches 100,00 miles, will become the property of the County.

An account established with the Owen County Community Foundation (OCCF) has a current balance of $5,392.54. Harvey, who estimates another $15,000 to $18,000 is needed to purchase a replacement vehicle, hopes fundraising efforts and any veteran-related discounts will make the goal reality.

Military veterans, both men and women, make up more than nine percent of the county’s population, with an estimated 2,000 veterans currently residing in Owen.

Harvey estimates Goldman and other drivers combine to log approximately 1,500 miles each month on the vehicle, leaving just 15 months before a new vehicle will need to be called into service. He said an average of 20 veterans receive a ride to Indianapolis each month, but the noted the average number increased to 23 in 2014.

“I’m impressed by how much we use it. I’ve had two guys who we helped receive disability through the VA. They got their check and then the next week they came in and handed me a (donation) check for $500,” Harvey said. “We also got another anonymous $500 donation.”

The county-owned van makes an estimated six to eight trips each month to clinics in Bloomington and Terre Haute, but volunteer drivers older than 70 are not covered by the county’s insurance policy for the van. Those over 70 can drive the Escape, and all drivers must complete a physical exam and back- ground check through the VA. A similar requirement is not in place for the county owned.

Volunteer drivers, Harvey noted, are always needed.

“We need volunteers, even if they can only volunteer to drive once or twice a month. If we could get ten people to drive and they were available twice a month, that would be a big help,” Harvey explained. “Joe (Goldman) is up (at the VA Hospital) today, so if somebody calls he’s on the road and can’t answer his phone. If we could keep him in the office a little more, he could do a little more coordinating instead of being on the road all of the time. He does a fantastic job, he knows people up there and can get guys in the system. He knows the questions they’re going to ask, so he can have them prepared to answer those questions, which helps a lot.”

Current volunteer drivers include Nancy Job, Gary Brinson, and Dave Lucas.

“Nancy is a terrific driver, she does a great job. We just got Gary signed up and Dave is our newest guy,” Harvey said. “It’s hard to get people to volunteer, because they don’t make (any money doing it). On the days that they drive, they do receive a $6 meal ticket to use at the VA cafeteria, which is a really nice place to eat.”

Tax-deductible gifts can be sent to the “Veterans of Owen County Fund,” P.O. Box 503, Spencer, Indiana 47460. Make checks payable to OCCF and note ‘vehicle’ on the memo line.

The Owen County Veterans Services Office is open from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday through Friday, in the old Armory building at 157 South Washington Street in Spencer.

To contact Veterans Services Officer (VSO) Mike Harvey, call 812-585-7550, or email mike.harvey@owencounty.in.gov.

Veterans Transportation Coordinator (VTC) Joe Goldman can be reached at 812-829-5027, or via email to joe.goldman@owencounty.in.gov.

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