Donated van to take East Polk veterans to medical clinic
By Marilyn Meyer
LAKE WALES — The donation of 12-passenger van will help considerably in getting elderly, disabled veterans to their medical appointments, said Ira "Andy" Anderson, commander of American Legion Post 71 All Veterans Center.
“We have 15,000 veterans in East Polk and probably 6,000 to 8,000 have a need to be transported because they either cannot drive or cannot get someone to transport them,” Anderson said. “The area east of U.S. 27 is very rural and has lots of elderly retirees who cannot drive because of vision or other health issues,” Anderson said.
On Tuesday evening, the Legion post is accepting donation of the van from Central Florida Health Care, a federally qualified community health clinic that is in the process of being designated as a Veterans Choice Provider.
"Veterans who live 40 miles or more from a VA clinic or those unable to obtain an appointment within 30 days can elect to receive care from a Veterans Choice Provider," said Ann Claussen, chief executive officer of Central Florida Health Care.
The Ford E350 passenger van is set up to accommodate eight passengers and two wheelchairs, Claussen said. Central Florida Health Care has owned the van, valued at $7,500, for more than 15 years but it has low mileage, she said.
Central Florida Health Care, which operates clinics at 10 sites in Polk and Hardee counties, has a dental clinic at 225 E. Lincoln Ave. in Lake Wales.
In June, it expects to move into the former Lake Wales Day Care Center building at 305 W. Central Ave., where “we will have the capacity to see patients for medical, dental, pharmacy, lab, X-ray, etc., and, of course, will include veterans,” Claussen said.
Not only will the van enable volunteer drivers to get veterans to Central Florida Health Care’s clinic in Lake Wales, it can also be used to take them on grocery runs, Anderson said.
And after drivers are certified by the VA, they will be able to drive veterans for more comprehensive care at the VA Medical Centers in Tampa and Orlando, which are about equidistant from Lake Wales, he said.
— Marilyn Meyer can be reached at or 863-802-7558. Follow her on Twitter at @marilyn_ledger.