The van that’s utilized to transport veterans to and from the VA Hospital in Iron Mountain, Mich., has seen its better days and there are many who are doing their best to raise funds to go toward a new vehicle that will give better access and a better ride for the veterans.
Over the course of the past few months, Northwoods Harley-Davidson has taken the cause to heart, holding fundraisers that will go toward the cost of a new van.
The Northwoods Harley-Davidson owners said the effort to raise money for the van is another example of how both the dealership and Harley-Davidson as a company support veterans.
Al and Darby Ison own the Arbor Vitae business.
“Harley-Davidson has always had a big partnership with the military,” Al Ison recently told The Lakeland Times. “For us to carry on that tradition, this dealership is definitely in full support of the U.S. military.”
The old van, being operated with more than 100,000 miles on it, is driven four times per week to Michigan and back. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the van runs its northern route, which includes stops in Lake Tomahawk, Minocqua, Arbor Vitae and Eagle River.
The southern route, which is available to veterans on Wednesdays and Thursdays, picks up those who need to go to the hospital for checkups and appointments from Rhinelander, Monico, Crandon, Conover and Laona.
Seats on the van must be scheduled in advance, usually at least one week.
However, the current van can only fit three riders, in addition to the volunteer driver.
To qualify for a new van, total local contributions of $14,000 are needed. Most recently, fundraisers coordinated through Northwoods Harley-Davidson with contributions from Thrivent Financial have raised about $5,000 toward the goal.
The local monies will cover one-third of the total cost, which is estimated to be between $35,000 and $40,000. The other two-thirds of the cost will come from the Disabled American Veterans national fund and some from Ford Motor Company.
In all, there are 25 volunteers who drive the current van, which was bought used out of Green Bay about four years ago.
The hope is that within the year, the local portion of the cost will have been raised.
And this time around, the van will be purchased new. It will be ordered directly from the Ford Motor Company factory.
Though no specific plans have been announced for future fundraisers, local organizers have some ideas in the works.
In the meantime, the United Church of Christ’s Thrift Shop in St. Germain will be fundraising for the group through the summer and Slo’s Pub in Arbor Vitae is planning “bike nights” on Thursdays, June through August, with all proceeds going to the fundraising effort.
For more information about future fundraisers or how to contributed to the effort, call 715-358-5054 and ask for Jim Wolter.
Raymond T. Rivard may be reached at email@example.com.