New golf carts needed to help transport veterans at VA clinic

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s an initiative by local Austinites to bring some comfort to veterans.

Volunteers at Austin’s VA Outpatient Clinic have created a GoFundMe account to raise money for a new golf cart. So far, they’ve raised $11,720.

The clinic currently has two golf carts, but they’ve seen better days. One golf cart has issues maintaining its charge and the other was just recently fixed after being out of commission for months due to a brake issue.

“The golf carts wouldn’t be working and the veterans would be stuck walking which is difficult in the cold and even more in the summer months, so it’s disappointing, to say the least,” said Kate Greene, a volunteer at the clinic.

There are more than 1,500 parking spaces on site and around 250 of those spaces are reserved for accessible parking. With the carts frequently in and out of service for maintenance, they’re not always available to transport veterans.

“We have a lot of veterans with medical mobility issues and they just absolutely appreciate it,” said Rich Connell, a veteran and volunteer at the clinic. 

Some veterans say a simple ride on the golf cart can make all the difference. 

“Every time we come and the cart’s available, we take it,” said Nadyne Gartman, who accompanies her husband on his visits to the clinic. 

“I looked for it this morning and [asked] ‘Where’s the buggy?’ I don’t see nothing but cars up through there,” said Thurman Gartman, a Korean War veteran who visits the clinic at least once a month. 

Every year, the clinic serves 50,000 veterans and that number is growing, says Reggie Hardy, chief of volunteer services.

“It gets kind of hectic because there’s a lot of us going back-and-forth and we do need the cart a lot,” said Beatrice Valdez who accompanies her husband, Army veteran, Santiago Valdez, to his appointments.

They’re hopeful they’ll get to ride in a new golf cart soon.

“That would be good if we could get a good, brand new one,” Valdez said.

Currently, the golf carts must be taken to Temple for any repairs.

If the volunteers reach their goal and raise enough money to buy a brand new one, they say they will buy the golf cart in Austin to ensure it stays here in case it needs to be repaired. 

VA officials say they were looking into allocating funds for a new golf cart in next year’s budget, but volunteers say the veterans need it now. 

The clinic is also in search of driving volunteers.

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