By Rita Hatch
Published in The Burg March 17, 2022
30 years ago the Veterans Van was started to transport our Veterans to Iowa City for their medical care. In 1987, the Veterans Administration cut funding, they were forced to make cuts to reimburse veterans for trips to Veteran hospitals.
The VFW, the American Legion and the Elks started up a Galesburg van. Back in those days the official pick up spot was the VFW in Galesburg on Michigan Avenue. The program then moved to Post 285 on North Street in Galesburg.
The office is operated out of my home as when the Legion in Galesburg closed I needed to be somewhere different and my home turned out to be the ideal place.
The 12 passenger van makes regular trips to Iowa City on Wednesday and Thursday. We also will get our Veterans to Iowa City on Fridays when many of the surgeons only see patients.
A lot of our Veterans are on fixed incomes and no longer have vehicles. We don't go house to house to pick up anymore, we meet at the Veterans Clinic in Galesburg. Yes some of our Veterans need us to pick them up at their homes when they have no way to get to the clinic at 5:30 in the morning. Taxis do not operate that early in the morning. We also pick up Veterans in Monmouth at certain locations, one in the north part of town, other in the south part of town. We also pick up Veterans in Oquawka.
Its a two and a half hours trip to Iowa City with a break in Walcott or New London, Iowa when we go west on 34. In addition to the length of the Veterans treatments makes for 10 to 12 hrs days.
So, you want to volunteer to be a part of the team that drives our Veterans to Iowa City, its not difficult. I'm the coordinator of the van here in Galesburg 309-342-7735. There is no age limit and prospective volunteers need not be a Veteran. I do the first interview face to face. One has to take a physical in Iowa City and we take you over for that. You have to pass fingerprinting. Showing proof of insurance is also required, but Iowa City takes care of the insurance. No special license is required and an experienced driver will go with a newcomer on his or her's first trips. Yes we use female and male candidates.
We have 6 drives right now:
Mike Seastedt has been a driver for the van for 10 years. Steve Mullins, Myron Baughman, Jeff Marty, Jim Rutledge, and Terry Miller. I drove the van also for 7 years, but am just the coordinator now. All of our drivers but one is over the age of 60, younger people find it hard to drive for us so yes retired drivers.
The county is making our van payment now. I use to go to everyone and ask them to help us pay our van payments.
We have been supported over the years by The Galesburg VFW Post 2257, Monmouth VFW Post 2301, Elks Lodge Post 894, Galesburg Legion Post 285, Knoxville Legion Post 749, Monmouth Legion Post 136, Abingdon Legion Post 381, Williamsville Legion Post 371, The Knox County AmVets Post 8, Oneida Legion Post 727, Altona Legion Post 390, and Galesburg Rotary Club.
We were all volunteers at one time but last year Knox County decided to start to pay us for our time.
We would like to drive 5 days a week but because of a shortage of drivers we only run Wednesday and Thursday.