OUR TOWN: Kindness of one man gives money to for van

The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas – November 19, 2009

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.

Buffalo Express

If you read The Horse’s Mouth column, or have noticed the donation jars scattered around town, you will have learned that the Disabled American Veterans is in need of a new van to transport our veterans from the VA clinic in Palestine to the VA hospitals in Waco and Temple. Well, a few weeks ago a wonderful man, Mr. Blumberg, a stranger to the area, was just passing through town and stopped at the Pitt Grill. He noticed the jar that I had sitting on the counter near the cash register. Handing the waitress his card, he asked her to give it to me so that I could call him about a donation as this looked like something he would be interested in.

I looked at his card, didn’t give it much credence, why would this man from Florida want to help us instead of somebody in his area? But, why not, stranger things have happened. So I gave him a call, we talked a while and he requested that I send more information to him. He told me that he had founded an organization called Americans for Veterans and that this looked to be a very worthy cause. There were a few more calls, more like playing telephone tag and then silence from him. Oh well, I had explained that there were VA clinics all over the U.S. that all needed vans on a regular basis so I just thought that he decided to help in his area. Boy was I wrong!

He called, he asked how much we needed and when I told him he said, “You got it”. “You’re kidding, you’re joking, you’re not serious”. I was crying and babbling like an idiot, but he was serious. And Monday I turned over a check for $7000.00 to the Commander of the DAV. Yep, that’s not a typo it was seven thousand dollars. I still get all teary eyed every time I think about it or try to talk about it, oops and now even writing about it. I told my husband that I was turning into the biggest crybaby in Texas, but at least it was happy tears.

Philip Blumberg, you are truly an angel and you will never be forgotten.

During my campaign for funds I have discovered that there are many veterans in the Buffalo, Centerville and Jewett areas that are unaware of the VA clinic in Palestine. If you need to get registered the VA clinic is on Loop 256 and Hwy 19 in Palestine in the old mall just down from where Penny’s is located. Just remember that the VA is slow and it may take a while to get into the system if you are not already in it so go now before you need it. And don’t forget that you can always go to the Emergency Room at the Olin Teague Veterans Hospital in Temple.

I also discovered that many veterans just didn’t want to or couldn’t go all the way to Palestine to ride the van. And veterans that had their primary care doctors in Bryan did not know that the van was available to them. Well folks, listen up. To ride the van you must have a doctor’s appointment between 10:30 am and 1:00pm at either the Waco VA Hospital or the Olin Teague Veterans Hospital in Temple, and you must call the VA clinic in Palestine at 903-723-9006 to make a reservation on the van, even if your primary care doctor is in Bryan. We will pick you up at Brookshire Brothers parking lot in Buffalo between 8:30 am and 9:00 am. You won’t even have to go to Palestine! Be sure and tell the clinic that you want to be picked up in Buffalo.

Your appointment is at 9:00 am or 2:00 pm? No problem. It’s not written in stone. The appointments are computer generated so when you get your appointments letter, just call the number on the letter, talk to a real person and change your appointment. It’s that simple.

On behalf of our veterans I would like to say thank you to all the folks that dug deep into their pockets and dropped their donations into my donation jars. A few pennies or a $20 dollar bill, it all adds up and we do appreciate it. Your support means so much to us.

I would like to thank Buffalo Industrial Supply, Ryder Oil, Napa Auto Parts, The Horse’s Mouth, Billy’s Custom Auto Repair, Larry Lynch and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Ashley for their generous donations. And thank you , Pitt Grill, Napa Auto Parts, Mickey’s Pizza, The Horse’s Mouth, Buffalo Sporting Goods, Anthony’s Restaurant and Rancho Viejo for allowing me to put my donation jars in your places of business. Be assured that when I am driving the VA van I always point out all the businesses that have made donations or allowed me to leave a donation jar in their place of business.

Joyce Stark
Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary
Sr. Vice Commander, District III

Associate Viet Nam Veterans of America
American Legion Member

Volunteering for duty

Group helps WWII vet renovate, paint old Dorchester house

His home has just been painted a crisp Colonial blue and his windows sparkle, but it’s a bittersweet Veterans Day for John MacPherson, a South Boston native and World War II veteran.

His American flag is flying at half-staff “for the people who got killed down there in Texas,” the 83-year-old U.S. Navy veteran said.

The Fort Hood massacre makes him worry about his two grandsons, both Marines, and it brings back memories of his own service on the USS Quincy.

But he’s also delighted with the impressive renovation of his longtime Sumner Street home in Dorchester, done by a crew of volunteer builders and war veterans.

“Looks good, doesn’t it?” said MacPherson.

It certainly looks good now, but a few years ago MacPherson’s sprawling 1890s Victorian was in rough shape. It was the winter of 2007, and oil prices were on the rise. MacPherson, a divorced father of seven who hadn’t worked since a debilitating auto accident in late 2006, had to choose between heat and food.

“I used my whole Social Security check that month to get oil,” he recalled. “Except for $200, that went for soup.”

But when word of the soldier’s plight spread, the Florida-based charity Americans for Veterans stepped in, offering to weather-proof for free the five-bedroom home where MacPherson raised his family.

Over time, the volunteers replaced 300 feet of gutters and downspouts, installed 29 windows, eight storm windows and four storm doors. They primed and painted the entire house.

Most mornings, MacPherson is outside with them, critiquing their work and handing out warm slices of fresh-baked banana cake. The crew knows all about his gun battles off the coast of France, the action he saw on D-Day, and how he met then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, when he boarded the USS Quincy in Southampton, England.

Steven Georgopoulos of Commodore Builders in Newton has overseen the job. The all-union crew of carpenters and painters includes Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Shanye Cossette, 26, of Norwood and Vietnam War veteran John Cahill, 62, of Roslindale.

Stephen Zwang of Blumberg Capital Partners, the Florida firm that underwrites Americans for Veterans, said there was no shortage of volunteers.

“People were falling all over themselves to help out,” he said.

Joseph Mahony, 41, of Jamaica Plain, a carpenter who has been on site for months, said amid some tough times for Americans, this has been a very rewarding job.

“It’s a way to give back, and pay it forward,” he said. “He’s an amazing man.”