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Alpena comes through for veterans van

ALPENA — Earlier this month, the Disabled American Veterans Thunder Bay Chapter 61 and the Alpena County Veterans Affairs office pleaded to the public for help raising about $5,000 for a new van to transport military veterans to and from medical appointment downstate.

As usual, the Alpena community and others wasted no time in donating more than enough money.

Because more money was raised than was needed, the DAV can purchase a larger van, doubling the number of veterans who can receive rides at one time.

DAV Treasurer and Service Officer Rebecca Mott said people who wanted to donate started calling after The News ran a story about the need for the van. Some donations were $1,000 or more, which could lead to the van being acquired sooner than previously thought, she said.

Originally, Mott thought it could be February before a new van could be received.

But, because of the quick action from donors, she hopes there is a chance that timeline could be moved up.

“Right now, we are the only region in the state that doesn’t have a van, so I hope we can be moved to the top of the list and be able to get the first van off the line,” Mott said. “I hope now that we will be able to get it before January, but that is only my hope.”

The DAV was required to put $17,000 toward the cost of the van, while the Columbia Trust at Ford Motor Co. paid the other 50%. A majority of the local funds had been raised previously, but the old van broke down sooner than expected and officials still were $5,000 short.

Mott said the van helps transport more than 1,100 veterans a year from Alpena and the surrounding area to appointments in Saginaw, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. When the van broke down, many veterans had to fend for themselves or count on friends or family for those trips. Some veterans were forced to miss appointments, Mott said.

The new van will not only be able to return the service to those vets but also improve services, as the new van will hold eight passengers, instead of the four the old vehicle held.

Mott said that, not only was enough money raised to purchase the larger van, but excess funds will be deposited into the vehicle fund and saved for the purchase of a new van five to seven years from now.

She said everyone at the DAV, VA, and the county Veterans Council is thrilled — but not shocked — that the community stepped up as quickly as it did. Mott said there are a lot of people who deserve thanks, including the Veterans Council, other counties, and private donors.

“We want to say thank you to everyone who made this possible,” Mott said. “We are just thrilled that the community stepped up, the way it always does. We really did get a big response to the news that we needed help, and this is just really exciting for us. Everyone really came up big.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.