TAWAS CITY – A newly acquired grant will help area veterans in a variety of ways, according to Iosco County Veterans Service Officer Ron Whitney.

Whitney, who heads the Iosco County Veterans Affairs Office, said his office recently was awarded a $50,000 County Service Veterans Fund Grant. He said the grant is funded by the Michigan Public Act 210 of 2018, the Michigan Publics Funds Act, and is supported by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

Whitney said he applied for the grant back in February. He said that there was also a per capita payment that went along with the grant based on the number of veterans who reside in the county. He said that amount was $17,399, making the total grant awarded to the office $67,399. 

“It’s a big chunk of money and it can be used for a wide number of things,” he said. “But unfortunately due to COVID-19 I had to cancel and curtail a lot of outreach things planned for veterans,” Whitney said.

One of those events would have been the second annual Veterans Benefits Fair, which was deemed very successful and widely attended by area veterans a year ago this month.

Whitney said with the grant funding he has developed a new program called Veterans Care Packages presented by the office and the East Tawas American Legion Post No. 211.

The care packages will be distributed to qualifying veterans during the event to be held on July 18 at the American Legion in East Tawas, located at 900 E. Lincoln St. The distribution will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The care packages themselves will contain non-perishable food items, laundry soap, dish soap and personal items and basic need items, according to Whitney.

Whitney said that there will be care packages for the first 200 who sign up for the program

“We are limited to 200 people, 200 veterans, due to funding, and there are not going to be any activities at the event due to COVID-19,” he said.

“We will have place the items into their trunk, backseat or whatever,” Whitney said. “It’s something to help supplement what they currently have, there are other places where they can get things it this is our way of reaching out to veterans, to say ‘We do care and we are all in this together.’”

Those who are eligible and would like to sign up for a ticket can visit IOSCOVeteransCarePackages.Eventbrite.com, to sign up for a ticket.

“If they do not have access to a computer, I’ll go online and create a ticket for them,” Whitney said. He said a lot of veterans, especially those of the older populations may not have a computer or do not have access to the internet.

Whitney can be reached at his office Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until noon. The number for his office is 362-6571 and he can be reached by email at rwhitney@ioscocounty.org.

Other projects that the grant will be used for includes building a new handicapped accessible ramp to the Iosco County Annex Building where the veterans office is located. Whitney said the newly built ramp will help accommodate the public and help veterans – many of which have disabilities – get easy and safe in-person access to the office. The cost of the ramp, he said, is $43,000.

Another upcoming program that the office is partnering with is one with the Pegasus Springs Therapeutic Riding Center in National City. The center will be offering a horseback-riding program to help veterans who may be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“On this grant we are going to pay for up to five veterans to go through this program, and they just need to contact the office to make this happen, to get through that program,” Whitney said. “I think this is going to be a good kick start for veterans to help them process and kind of work on their PTSD issues.”