A bus for the vets: Can you help?

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There are many ways we can give back to our veterans, and a new project surfaced this week that has us jumping on board.

Longtime Montana Veterans Home volunteer Dianna Bennett is spearheading a fundraising campaign to raise money to replace the aging bus that takes veterans on a variety of recreational outings, whether it’s bringing them to a favorite restaurant for a meal or a quick trip to enjoy the scenery in Glacier National Park. The old bus broke down last summer during a crucial time when transportation was needed to take residents to the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall that stopped in the Flathead. Another local long-term care facility supplied a bus, and it illustrated to Bennett how crucial this handicapped-accessible vehicle is for veterans.

Big purchases outside of the veterans home’s normal budget need separate approval from the state Legislature, and given the state’s budget crunch, who knows how long it could take to get a new 12-passenger bus. Bennett, who is well-known at the vets home for her “goody cart” that supplies free snacks and sundries to residents, decided to head up the bus project now to raise $130,000 for a bus with more space for wheelchairs and better access. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to do something special for those who have so dutifully served their country.

Send donations to the Montana Veterans Home Memorial Foundation, 400 Veterans Way, Columbia Falls, MT 59912. Make sure to note “for the bus” in the check memo line.

Funding for our counties

The federal government’s reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools funding is good news for Flathead County, which has relied heavily on the revenue-sharing program that compensates county governments with forested federal land for money lost due to dropping timber production. The program expired three years ago but was revitalized in the $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress passed earlier this year.

Flathead County’s payment is $1.56 million, and other heavily forested Northwest Montana counties will get even more. Lincoln County’s allocation is just over $4 million, while Sanders County will get $1.66 million.

Flathead County traditionally has split its Secure Rural Schools money between the county Road Department and local schools, with about $900,000 annually going to county roads. It goes without saying that maintaining Flathead County’s hundreds of miles of roads is a never-ending task, and there’s never enough money to do it justice. Restoring this federal funding will help.

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