By CHERIL VERNON
You often hear about the kindness of strangers, and this “kindness” story specifically touches the lives of area veterans.
A stranger from Florida was traveling on I-45 through Buffalo recently when he stopped at a local cafe and noticed a donation jar. Picking it up he read about the need for a van to transport veterans from the Palestine VA Clinic to the VA hospitals in Waco in Temple.
The stranger gave the waitress his card and asked her to give it to the contact person on the donation jar — Joyce Stark, the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary District III Sr. Vice Commander.
“I called him and explained to him that the veterans from Anderson and the five surrounding counties go to their primary care doctors at the Palestine VA clinic, but for any specialist treatment or surgery they must travel to Waco or Temple and that many of them have no family to help them, are no longer able to drive or just can't afford to drive this distance,” Stark said. “Some of them even have to make the trip two or three times a week and this can be a real hardship for them.”
The Disabled American Veterans furnishes a van to transport these veterans Monday through Friday at no cost to the veteran. The drivers are all volunteers; many of the drivers also are disabled veterans.
“The route to Waco and Temple is a 287-mile round trip so the mileage and wear and tear adds up quickly, making a new van about every other year a necessity,” Stark said. “This is that ‘other’ year. One hundred percent of donations for the van fund are used for the van, anything left over after the purchase stays in the van fund for the next van.”
The stranger’s name was Philip F. Blumberg, founder of the not-for-profit organization Americans for Veterans.
“He asked how much more we needed and when I told him he replied, ‘you got it!’” Stark said. “I nearly went into shock, but he was serious.”
On Monday, Stark presented a $7,000 check from Blumberg to DAV Chapter 63 Commander Gordon Brett.
Stark said she will never forget the kindness of this stranger.
“Mr. Blumberg you are a special angel and we will never forget you,” Stark said.
The recent economic downturn led Blumberg to launch Americans for Veterans in 2008.
“Veterans merit our support in any economic circumstance, but now more than ever, it is important for American businesses and citizens to recognize veterans and support those in need,” Blumberg says in an statement on the Americans for Veterans Web Site. “What is most important to me is not just that we respect their service but also that we show, by what we do for them when they return, how much we value that service. My hope is that this effort will grow into something that touches all veterans in need.”
This story shows that you never know how your act of kindness — no matter how large or small — can affect people’s lives.
For more information about Americans for Veterans, visit www.americansforveterans.org
By CHERIL VERNON
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