An effort to provide a van to help transport veterans to equine therapy at Intermountain Equestrian Center west of Billings recently received a boost from several foundations, two local businesses and the Billings School District 2 Career Center.
The first meeting of collaborators working to provide transportation for veterans to and from the Intermountain Equestrian Center took place in November.
Intermountain Equestrian Center is home to the Horses Spirit Healing Inc. equine therapy program for veterans with service-related injuries and disabilities.
The Vet Van project received major support from the Sample Foundation, combined with a grant from Town Pump, a donation of a used Dodge Caravan from Jim Abel of Out in the Cold Productions, a donation of signage for the van by Sign Products, and services of stu-dents at the Career Center.
“We’re happy that we were able to draw on a wide range of community resources to part-ner to help veterans,” said Paul Gatzemeier, HSHI president.
The van will be restored by students at the Career Center. The Sample Foundation grant will pay for that restoration. The Town Pump Foundation grant will help pay for fuel for the van. Sign Products is contributing part of the cost for signage on the van.
“This will be an important asset for Horses Spirits Healing, since it will enable us to transport veterans who have no other means to get here for their therapy sessions,” said Anvia Hampton, HSHI program director.
Hampton noted that arrangements for veterans’ travel were often complicated to make the nine-mile trip from their homes to the equestrian center, located on Highway 3, northwest of Billings-Logan International Airport.
HSHI staff often had to provide transportation with personal vehicles. The van remedies situations where the schedule did not fit being able to allocate someone to drive veterans.
Meeting with Gatzemeier and Hampton were Barb Skelton, HSHI vice president; Brenda Koch, School District 2 executive director of leadership support; and Scott Anderson, execu-tive director of the Career Center. Van donor Jim Abel presented the title and key to the van to Gatzemeier. (The Career Center offered to trade a for a van with fewer miles to serve veteran use, but Abel’s donation still provided Career Center students a learning opportuni-ty, according to Anderson, and its parts could be used in other vehicle repair work.)
The collaboration with SD2 will also provide other opportunities for students to work with HSHI besides restoring the van. Anderson said he could see photography and video learn-ing opportunities for students at HSHI.
The Sample grant, for $9,000, will be used to overhaul the van, which has 175,000 miles on it, but which is in relatively good condition. Town Pump donated $2,500 to help with fuel costs.
Half of the $1,200 cost for signage on the van will be donated by Sign Products when the overhaul is complete, according to Sign Products President Paul Cox.