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Survey underway to learn needs of veterans


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Three organizations are working together to find out just what veterans in central Wisconsin really need. Portage County Veterans Service Officer Michael Clements is working with the Portage County RSVP, or Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and the Stevens Point Police Department to reach out to veterans.

Clements says right now, they are looking for input from veterans using a survey to find out if they like the concept of creating a veterans service center. “This committee of citizens is seeking public input on their ideas as to what kind of services and needs the community has.”

Clements’ experience shows that veterans from Vietnam forward spend less time involved with groups like the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and are more on their own and tend to be more likely to seek information on the Internet. That’s why their survey is offered both at several libraries and businesses in addition to being available online. He says it’s important to find out what the vets feel they need. “We’d like to know what kind of services, specifically, they would like. We’d like to know how often they would attend or go to such a facility. We’d like to know if the citizens want supportive services for family members of deployed individuals. (As for) The veterans themselves, we’d like to know what they think, what they want, what they need.”

Jeff Jester leads the RSVP program, based in the Lincoln Center in Stevens Point. He says the needs of soldiers may be here at home while they are deployed. “What’s happening to the families of our service men? Particularly, those that are suddenly called up and are active duty, our reservists. They get called up and the family is still here, so essentially now we have a single mom with kids. What can we do to make sure they’re properly supported?”

The police department as assigned officer and veteran Mike Bink as the liaison officer as an initiative under Police Chief Kevin Ruder. Clements welcomes the effort to reach out to veterans in distress. “Veterans suicides are at an unacceptably high level. With a veteran’s liaison officer through the Stevens Point Police Department, this is a way to be proactive and to outreach to veterans to let them know that the police department is not their enemy, They’re there to support and serve them.”

The surveys are due January 31st, and can be found online at the Portage County website www.co.portage.wi.us and at public libraries in Almond, Amherst, Kellner, Bancroft, and Roshholt. They can also be found at the Salvation Army, and several businesses including the Sky Club in Plover and Trig’s in Stevens Point.

Jester and Clements are also searching for additional volunteer drivers for the Veterans Administration vans, which are used to take area vets to VA clinics and hospitals for medical appointments.

Anyone with questions about the veterans programs, the survey, or the volunteer driver program can contact Jeff Jester at 715-346-1401 or Michael Clements at 715-346-1311.

(Our interview with Michael Clements and Jeff Jester can be heard on our website, here.)