Group presents county veterans office with record check

By Brandi Makuski

The Portage County Veterans Service Office this week received a check of $8,000 from a special July 4 fundraiser, and the man running that office said every bit of those funds will get used.

Mike Clements, the county’s veterans services officer, said his office is responsible for helping veterans across Portage Co., and their qualifying dependents, with VA benefits and other veteran-related issues. He also said many veterans don’t realize there is a special state-mandated fund available to provide vets with short-term financial help.

“There are public funds and these donations will be intermixed with the public funds to help veterans that [sic] are undergoing an economic hardship through no fault of their own,” Clements said.

Portage Co. taxpayers provide an annual stipend of $4,000 to the office through tax levy, Clements said. The money never stretches as far as he needs it to, and so the office relies heavily on donations.

Enter Tim Peltier, the founder of the Running of the Flag 5K walk/run event. Now in its fifth year, the event was designed to help raise funds for local veterans. Peltier is insistent the money raised during the annual July 4 event stay inside Portage Co.

“They do so much for us, this is the least we can do for them,” Peltier said on the morning of July 4.

Last year, the group raised $6,500. The year before, $4,500. This year, a little over 100 runners/walkers and their families brought in an even $8,000.

“We’ll use it all, I have no doubt,” Clements said. “There’s no shortage of misery around here.”

Clements said Portage Co. is home to about 4,730 veterans from various branches of military service. Last year, his office shelled out about $17,000 in emergency funds for rent, utility bills, or emergency home repairs. He estimates the three-person commission overseeing applications for assistance will approve even more this year—about $21,000, he said.

Commissioner Ron Johnson said Clements’ job is more comprehensive than most people outside the office might realize.

“He goes out to visit the veterans who are homeless from time to time,” Johnson said. “He likes to try and do whatever he can within his power to get them off the street. We don’t want to realize there are vets on the street, but there’s plenty of them out there in Stevens Point.”

The Veterans Service Office is located on the first floor of the County-City Building, 1516 Church St. in Stevens Point. The office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and appointments are recommended.

For more information, Clements’ office can be reached at (715) 346-1311 or veterans@co.portage.wi.us.