TRAVERSE CITY — An afternoon on the back nine helped members of a local veterans group formulate an idea they hope will drive money toward veterans in need.
Members of Veterans in Crisis attended a Traverse City Vet Center golf outing, and realized a similar event could raise money toward the group's key objective — to ease the financial worries of struggling local veterans, said Vince Fochtman, a Veterans in Crisis board member.
That thought culminated in the first annual Golfing For Vets event, a June 13 golf scramble at Elmbrook Golf Course, said David Mikowski, Veterans in Crisis founder and chairman.
“It’s going to be an unprecedented opportunity for the public to see the money go directly to the veterans,” he said.
Fochtman said Veterans in Crisis officials hope to raise at least $30,000 through the golf outing, and it appears they are near that goal.
A compliance committee consisting of Veterans in Crisis members, Traverse City Vet Center personnel and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials will determine how the money is distributed, Mikowski said. The organization plans to host annual golf outings to continue securing funding for local veterans.
To receive assistance, Mikowski said veterans need to work with Traverse City Vet Center officials who will then bring a recommendation to the compliance committee.
Mikowski hopes the money can help veterans finding it difficult to pay for things from groceries and housing, to legal expenses and house payments.
A growing number of veterans in northern Michigan find themselves in need of assistance, Mikowski said. Fochtman estimated 70,000 veterans reside north of U.S. 10 and 10 percent of that population find themselves experiencing some form of a crisis, like homelessness or mounting medical costs.
He hopes the money raised by the golf scramble can ease some of those financial burdens.
“I feel very dedicated to those heroes that have given up a part of their life to keep our freedom,” Fochtman said.
Mikowski, a retired combat Marine who served in the Vietnam War, began helping fellow veterans by building Project Cherry Tree — an organization formed to help veterans and their families. That work expanded to encompass Veterans in Crisis. The community initiative “puts money in the bucket” that goes toward assisting veterans, he said.
The golf outing is the latest effort to continue that work.
“It’s a bridge,” Mikowski said. “It’s a gap between hopelessness, despair and opportunity that exists on the other side.”
The golf outing begins at 11 a.m. Go to www.golfingforvets.com to register.