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Keeping the wheels turning

Posted: Wednesday, Feb 15th, 2017

Lloyd Timperley of Huron is coordinator of fundraising efforts to purchase a new DAV Van this summer to transport veterans to medical appointments at the VA Hospital in Sioux Falls. Shown next is the van currently being used in the DAV National Transportation Network. PHOTOS BY CRYSTAL PUGSLEY/PLAINSMAN

Lloyd Timperley has logged a lot of miles since becoming a volunteer driver of the Huron DAV Van 11 years ago.

Since the program started in Huron in October 2005, they have gone through three vans and are currently raising money to purchase their fourth vehicle through the DAV Transportation Network program this summer.

The DAV Transportation Network was started in 1987, when the Department of Veterans Affairs planned to stop reimbursing veterans for the costs of transportation to and from the VA medical facilities. Many veterans live on fixed incomes, and paying these travel costs was a hardship.

“Since starting in 1987, the DAV program has put more than 3,000 vehicles on the road nationwide,” said Timperley, who is coordinating local fundraising efforts.

DAV regulations require that vans used to transport veterans in the program are replaced every five years or 150,000 miles. The DAV pays about 40 percent of the purchase price, and the local organization comes up with the balance — in this case, about $16,500.

“We have to write a check on April 1 — so we have two months,” Timperley said. “Our goal is to raise $6,000-plus in two months.

“Any extra we raise goes into a fund for the next van we’ll need five years down the road,” he said. “This is all volunteer; we have no expenses, per say.”

Donation checks can be made out to “Huron DAV Van Fund” and sent to Dakotaland Federal Credit Union, 1371 Dakota Ave S. Huron, S.D. 57350.

The VA pays for the gas and maintenance of each van used in the program.

Timperley said their first van was at 130,000 miles when he and a deer crossed paths on a trip to Sioux Falls one day.

“Our coordinator in Sioux Falls went to the Southeast Tech auto tech class and they fixed the old van and did body work for us,” Timperley said.

Timperley and four other drivers take turns shuttling veterans to the Sioux Falls VA.

“When we drive the van the shortest time we’re out is six hours,” he said. “That’s two hours up and two hours back. Typically it will be 8 to 9 hours.”

Other drivers are Charemon and Annette Dunham, who both started when the program was launched in Huron in 2005, along with Billie Sargent and Dwayne Saboe.

“With five drivers we schedule for twice a week to Sioux Falls, Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Timperley said. “When we first started we had 13 drivers and they drove any day of the week they were needed.

“Now that it’s winter and we have fewer drivers we consolidate them,” he added. “When we get more drivers, we may get back up to three or four days a week.”

When the first van they purchased was ready to be retired from the program, they bought their second van in 2009 and sold the first one.

“That money went into a pot to help buy the third van,” Timperley said. “The old van didn’t get sold right away and we lost some value. That is the one that was sold for a shortfall.

“We’re fundraising so we can get the fourth vehicle, and then sell this one and put that money into the pot for five years down the road when we need to replace it.”

The van they’re using now already has 120,000 miles on it, and Timperley predicts it will be at 140,000 or more by the time they replace it this summer.

The DAV has a facility in Cold Spring, Ky., that preps the vehicles and applies a vinyl logo for the DAV Transportation Network on the side.

“When it’s prepped and ready they let us know and we send someone to bring it back,” Timperley said. “I brought back this one.”

In 2016, the Huron DAV Van made 140 trips to Sioux Falls for 250 passengers, down from a high of 446 trips for 956 riders in earlier years of the program.

Jamie Schoenfelder, Beadle County Van Coordinator, has been organizing trips to the VA in Sioux Falls for the past eight years.

“For years we could go Monday through Friday, but just this past couple of months we had to cut it down to twice a week,” Schoenfelder said. “We do what we can. It’s not always easy. I’m a vet myself; I know how the system works.”

Veterans needing transportation to the Sioux Falls VA can contact Schoenfelder at 352-5659 to schedule a ride.

“You have people calling all the time,” Schoenfelder added. “I have a big book for each year to get stuff organized. It’s a long process.”

They are also working to recruit volunteers who would be willing to help transport veterans for doctor appointments in Sioux Falls.

More people are working past retirement age, making it more difficult to find volunteers who are able to spend the time transporting veterans to medical appointments in Sioux Falls.

A person does not have to be a veteran to become a driver in the program. Applications can be picked up at the Beadle County Veterans Service Office located in the Beadle County Courthouse.

Basic qualifications are a valid driver’s license and auto insurance, pass driver’s physical exam and a security background check.

Timperley said they plan the route they’ll take to Sioux Falls depending on needs of veterans from area towns along the way.

They can either go south to pick up veterans in Woonsocket, Artesian and Howard, or travel west and pick up riders in Iroquois, De Smet, Lake Preston and Arlington.

DAV Vans also operate in Redfield, Miller, Mitchell, Yankton, Madison, Brookings, Watertown and Aberdeen.

Timperley said 1,800 veterans in Beadle County are drawing some form of benefit through the Veterans Administration.

“The numbers have to be higher than that for the total number of veterans in the area,” he said.

“I’ve been driving 11 years, lots of those folks I was driving have passed on,” Timperley said. “We will have a continuing need because of continuing conflicts.

“The Gulf War was 25 years ago, they are aging,” he added. “The need is not going to go away for this.”

For the complete article see the 02-12-2017 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-12-2017 paper.

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