By Larry Dandridge
As a volunteer Patient Adviser at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (RHJVAMC), the Fisher House Charleston Ambassador of Good Will, the VP for Veteran Affairs for the Coastal SC Association of the US Army Chapter, and a disabled veteran, I am frequently asked, “How can I help Veterans and their families in the LowCountry of SC?” I recommend the following:
1. Volunteer at or Donate (Tax Free) to the RHJVAMC, one of its Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC), or Fisher House Charleston. Contact the RHJVAMC Voluntary Services, located at 109 Bee St., Charleston SC 29401. Voluntary Servies phone is 843-789-7230 and the email is VHACHAVAVS@va.gov. Read all about volunteering at and donating $$$$$ and things to the RHJVAMC at https://www.charleston.va.gov/giving/index.asp. The RHJVAMC owns and operates seven CBOCs, inlcuding the Clinics in Beaufort, Goose Creek, Trident 2/Ladson, North Charleston, and Myrtle Beach SC and the Savannah and Hinesville GA Clinics.
2. Volunteer to bring food and cook for guests at FISHER HOUSE CHARLESTON. Begin with the Fisher House Charleston web site at https://www.charleston.va.gov/services/Fisher_House.asp. Then go to the MEAL TRAINS WEB SITE at https://mealtrain.com/986m8v and read the instructions. Then contact the RHJVAMC Voluntary Services at 843-789-7230 or contact Christopher Jackson, Assistant Manager at Christopher.Jackson@va.gov and phone 843-805-8200. Fisher House Charleston is at 150 Wentworth Street, Charleston, SC 29401. Jacalyn Slemmer is the Manager of Fisher House Charleston. To drop off donations, call the Fisher House at 843-805-8200.
3. Donate $$$$$$ and Things (Tax Free) directly to Fisher House Charleston. Contact RHJVAMC Voluntary Services at 843-789-7230. Donation checks should be payable to the RHJVAMC Fisher House with the memo section of the check indicating: Fisher House. 100% of all (tax-free) donations that are made direct to the RHJVAMC or Fisher House Charleston go to supporting Veterans and their families. Read more about how to donate directly to Fisher House Charleston at https://www.charleston.va.gov/services/Fisher_House.asp.
4. Donate $$$$$$ to Fisher House Charleston through the Friends of Fisher House Charleston (FHC). Although the FHC is owned and operated by the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, every Fisher House relies on community support to underwrite incidental expenses that are not covered by appropriated funding. The Friends of Fisher House Charleston is the surviving independent charitable organization and 501. (c)(3) corporation that raised over $5.5 million dollars to purchase the land that Fisher House Charleston is built on and to refurbish the historic Carriage House. To make donations to FHC through the Friends of Fisher House Charleston, go to www.friendsoffisherhousecharleston.org and donate on line or make checks payable to the Friends of Fisher House Charleston, PO Box 1678, Charleston, SC 29402-1678. The Friends of Fisher House Charleston has a 90 out of 100 rating on Charity Navigator.
5. Volunteer to drive for the RHJVAMC VETERANS’ TRANSPORTATION NETWORK. Call the VA Medical Center Volunteer Services at 843-789-7230 or email VHACHAVAVS@va.gov to find out how to become a VA Volunteer, who drives the donated buses and government vehicles that provide free transportation to and from the VA Medical Center and its Clinics.
6. Help a Veteran and their family find out what the Veteran’s VA benefits are and who can help them to file a claim with the VA and the State of SC. Veterans and their families can receive free help with preparing claims from a VA accredited representative or an employee at a local VA Office. Many accredited representatives work for Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), and may provide help free of charge. There is a State of SC Veterans Service Office in every SC county. See a list of SC County Veterans Service Offices at https://scdva.sc.gov/county-veterans-affairs-offices. The Beaufort County Vets Service Office is located at 100 Clear Water Way, Beaufort, SC 29906, phone number (843) 255-6880. Call ahead to make an appointment.
7. Become a volunteer or assisting organization with the Tri-County (Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties) Veterans Support Network (TCVSN). Go to TCVSN.org and Facebook page Facebook.com/TCVSN . The TCVSN is a non-profit, 501. (c) (3) Corporation and serves as a clearing house and focuses on proactively identifying and seeking out veterans and their families who are in a crisis. The network assesses the veterans and their family’s needs and ensures they are quickly connected to the relevant services from over 100 Veteran Service Agencies in the LowCountry. Call Tim Taylor at 843-410-3616 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can download TCVSN local resource and national resource directories at the web site. You can donate to TCVSN at tcvsn.org/donate. Charity Navigator rates this charity at four stars and 94 out of 100.
8. Lead the effort to establish a Quad-County Veterans Support Network for Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper, and Hampton SC Counties. Call Tim Taylor the Director of the Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley County (Tri-County) Veterans Support Network (TCVSN) 843-410-3616 or email Tim Taylor at email@example.com to get a run-down on how he and many others started and operate the highly successful TCVSN.
One last word of caution. There are thousands of scams trying to defraud people into donating, in the name of our military members, veterans, and their families. Before donating to anyone, other than the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, where 100% of donations are used to support veterans, go to one or more of the Charity Rating Organizations like Charity Navigator at https://www.charitynavigator.org, Charity Watch https://www.charitywatch.org, and Consumer Reports www.consumerreports.org/charities/best-charities-for-your-donations/ and make certain the charity you are considering is reputable and has a high rating.
Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100% disabled veteran, an ex-Enlisted Infantryman, an Ex-Warrant Officer Attack Helicopter Pilot and Test-pilot, and a retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Medical Center. He is also the Fisher House Charleston volunteer Good Will Ambassador and the VP for Veteran and Retiree Affairs for the Coastal Carolina Army Association Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning, non-fiction, and action-packed BLADES OF THUNDER (Book One) and contributing free-lance writer with the Island News, you can email him at: LDandridge@earthlink.net.
These columns are not meant to replace carefully reading the Federal Veterans’ benefits information at www.va.gov and other locations or the State of SC Veterans benefit information at https://scdva.sc.gov . Anyone seeking advice on veterans’ benefits are advised to seek the advice and assistance of a Veterans Assistance Officer or another certified Veterans Advisor.
Larry Dandridge is not an employee of THE ISLAND NEWS and his opinions are his alone. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of these articles, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed by the author or THE ISLAND NEWS for damages resulting from the use of information contained herein.