HAZARD — Several county clerks have banded together to help take care of veterans in Kentucky, and on July 10 made a hefty donation to the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center.
Starting several years ago, Letcher County Clerk Winston Meade began looking for a way to help raise money to donate in honor of the veterans in the area. He came across some birdhouses made out of old license plates and bought one. His father-in-law then took the idea and ran with it, making hundreds if not thousands of bird houses himself.
Over the years these $20 birdhouses have added up, and the proceeds have led to some pretty incredible things for veterans centers and organizations.
The birdhouses are sold across the state in different county clerk’s offices. Meade said that the expenses on the birdhouses is low since his father-in-law does all of the work for free.
“The only expenses that we have out of the birdhouses are the expense to buy the lumber and the nails,” said Meade. “All the labor and everything is donated by my father-in-law, and he works it like a job.”
Currently, the birdhouse fund is working towards giving $5,000 to each of the veterans centers in the state. The first of these centers to receive this money is the Eastern Kentucky Veteran’s Center in Hazard.
“We have raised thousands of dollars that we have spent on them,” said Meade.
Other county clerks and judge-executives have all chipped in and are working to take care of area veterans. Perry County Clerk Haven King works with his organization, Coal Mining our Future, to help purchase items for the center regularly. This time they donated several televisions, razors and other items the center needs.
Along with the work that these clerks have done on their own, one of the major projects of the Kentucky County Clerks Association is the HAVE program. HAVE, or Help A Veteran Everyday, was started by the clerks of Kentucky in 2005.
The money that is a part of the HAVE program is put into a trust fund for the Kentucky Department of Veteran’s Affairs. But for some organizations, funding cuts have created an immediate need for money.
The Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center is one of those organizations that have seen the effects of across-the-board budget cuts throughout all levels of government. Because of this they are relying more on donations.
“Their money is down, and they needed certain things,” King noted.
Along with selling the birdhouses and receiving donations from coal companies, the clerks in the area also host an annual golf scramble that helps to pay for the center’s Christmas party. Letcher County also recently hosted a fundraiser at the Isom IGA that raised $4,500 for veterans.
King said that he and the other clerks feel it is important to take care of our veterans since they have taken care of America.
“It is a shame the thought of our veterans having to do without anything,” said King. “That money is not there, but these veterans shouldn’t have to do without.”
Along with the money and items donated to the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center on July 10, the clerks and judges also traveled to the Disabled American Veterans buidling in Perry County and donated $1,000.
Anther organization working to help the veterans of the area is the Letcher County Veterans Museum. The museum donates money, but also works to preserve the military history of the area. The museum is open to the public and accepts donations. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from nine am to four pm.
One of the major items that the officials at the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center need are phone cards. Many of the veterans at the center have some from as far away as Louisville, and are not able to get many visitors on a regular basis. The center is accepting donations of phone cards to help keep these veterans in touch with their families.
Along with keeping in contact with their own families, King said that many of the veterans would just love the opportunity to have visitors, and volunteers just to come and spend time at the center are always welcome.
“We need people to come over here and look and see,” King said. “Just spend a little time talking to the veterans. They would enjoy that.”