Veteran Carl Woods, right, gets ready to board the VetRides van driven by Sophie McCoy. The program is seeking more funds to continue providing free rides.

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LAMPASAS — “VetRides — Call for a Ride.”

That’s been the VetRides motto since it began in 2010. In the last two years, however, funding issues plagued the program and jeopardized what some people call an invaluable service.

VetRides was established to provide transportation to veterans and their families who live in the Burnet, Llano and Lampasas communities. Veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses and family members can receive transportation to and from VA hospitals, clinics, veteran’s services offices, pharmacies, groceries and even retail stores — all at no cost to the riders.

“There are veterans everywhere that need help. I think we should be there for veterans, care for them and just be there for those who have given so much for us — it’s all about giving back,” VetRides Project Manager Sophie McCoy said.

According to McCoy, VetRides was initially funded by the Texas Veterans Commission, which gave approximately $200,000 during the first two years in operation. However, the commission cut off its funding in 2011 due to budget constraints, and it’s been an uphill battle ever since to keep the three vans fueled, mechanically serviced and ready for duty.

“Although the grants went away, we never ended service, but word got out that we were no longer funded, and many people thought we were out of business,” McCoy said. “There was enough money left through 2012 for gas and some maintenance, and despite the cuts, all of our paid drivers offered to continue working — now as volunteers.”

Currently, the program operates solely from public donations and remains under the wing of Burnet County, which owns the vehicles, provides grant writing services, administrative support and additional funding.

McCoy recently made an appeal to Lampasas County commissioners asking for a $900 donation. All but one approved the request, with Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert Vincent noting he didn’t think there was enough ridership in the Lampasas area to warrant the county’s financial assistance.

“We have already been servicing that area since we began in 2010,” McCoy said. “In any given year, we have taken as many as six riders from the Lampasas area, but we would like for that to increase.”

McCoy said the main problem is getting the word out and letting riders know the service is available.

“When we ran out of money in 2011, veterans began giving donations of $10 or $20 or anything they could give to help out. There are veterans out there who have never used our service who have given money to the program to help others,” McCoy said.

For more information or to schedule a ride, call McCoy at 830-613-9982 or toll free at 877-851-8838. Donations may be mailed to: VetRides, 220 S. Pierce St., Burnet, TX, 78611.

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