By LYNNETTE HINTZE/The Daily Inter Lake
When three of the four vans serving local disabled veterans crossed the 200,000-mile mark some time ago and a third van had topped 196,000 miles, Larry Smith decided it was time for some new wheels.
Smith, the local area coordinator for the Flathead Valley Chapter of Disabled American Veterans, turned into a fundraising dynamo, bringing in $44,495 in just six weeks. That was the amount needed for the national DAV organization to match half the cost for three new vans.
“These vans have served the vets well,” Smith said about the worn fleet. “The guidelines for replacement for the DAV is 200,000 miles. Our oldest van had 246,000 miles. It was used strictly for local runs, not for long hauls.”
The local DAV held a ceremony on Friday during which top donors were presented plaques for their generosity. Those donors included Plum Creek Timber Co., Kalispell and Whitefish VFW posts, and the Babb family.
Tracy Babb, a Navy veteran, had decided to donate to the van project before she died, so her brother John Babb, of Kalispell, saw to it that the family chipped in $14,000. The Babb family’s donation also honors Ronald Babb, an Army veteran, and John Bartlett, a Whitefish Vietnam veteran who died last year.
“We’ve had lots of smaller contributions, too, from as far away as Charleston, South Carolina,” Smith said.