History of the United Veterans of St. Lucie County
In the early 1990s a US Navy Veteran named Jerry Frost started transporting veterans from St. Lucie County to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, using his own private vehicle. After a period of time, Mr. Frost and others approached the (then) county administrator to ask for help performing this service. They were told to pick out a vehicle, which would become the first county vehicle to be used for transporting veterans to medical appointments and treatments.
In September, 2011, the United Veterans of St. Lucie County, Inc. (UVSLCINC) became a 501c(3) not-for-profit organization. Our Mission Statement was amended on October 24, 2016 to state:
This corporation’s purpose is charitable in nature; to provide free transportation to and from approved veterans’ administration medical facilities for veterans of St. Lucie County, Florida. Further, to sponsor events to raise funds for the future purchase of handicapped vehicles and other vehicles that meet the veteran’s transportation commitment. To support emergency fund accounts to assist veterans, their immediate families, military widows and widowers who are experiencing financial difficulty, and to support other charitable organizations with like goals and purposes who qualify as 501c(3) as designated by the Internal Revenue Service.
In early 2014, UVSLCINC applied for a federal transportation grant, to purchase new handicapped vehicles to replace the aging ones that had become unsafe. The grant was approved In November, 2014 for $285,320. The funds allowed UVSLCINC to purchase two handicapped equipped vans and two handicapped equipped buses to accommodate the needs of county veterans with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and veterans with K-9s. The vehicles were then leased to St. Lucie County to be operated by the county Veterans’ Services Office. In August of 2015, all new vehicles were fully operational and serving the needs of our county’s veterans.
In order to accrue funds to replace the new vehicles when the time came, UVSLCINC continued to hold their signature Golf Classic each spring. April, 2017, celebrated the 25th Annual Classic and helped to rebuild the Transportation account to prepare for eventual replacement vehicle requirements.
In addition to the golf event, in the spring of 2015, then Chairman Dan Depagnier brought the original Drifters to Port St. Lucie Civic Center to perform a special Memorial Day Concert which was sponsored by UVSLCINC. The event helped to raise additional funds for our Transportation account and provided Port St. Lucie residents with an evening of fun and memories.
Later that year Vice Chairman Roy Brewer and Gold Star Mothers Linda Schumann and Karen Zook traveled to Tampa, Florida to attend a Gold Star Families Memorial dedication. The trip was a fact finding mission to determine how we could build a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Port St. Lucie. It was at this dedication in Tampa that the Gold Star Mothers, Linda and Karen, were introduced to the founder of the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. “Woody” spoke to Linda and Karen about placing a monument in the City of Port St. Lucie, Florida. Within a few months a Gold Star Families Monument Committee was formed and work began in earnest.
On Monday, February 8, 2016 at 2:00 PM a ground breaking ceremony was held at Veterans Memorial Park in Port St. Lucie with Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams as honored guest, and 16 Gold Star Mothers and their families who were provided with gold shovels to break ground.
The project received tremendous support from many veterans’ organizations, including the US Marine Corps League, Jack Ivy Det. # 666 of Port St. Lucie, the Vietnam Veterans of America, Michael F. Bradley Chapter 566 of St. Lucie County, and the United Veterans of St. Lucie County, Inc. The annual Golf Classic held by UVSLCINC in the spring of 2016 earmarked proceeds to support the monument. The target date for completion of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument project was Sunday, September 25, 2016, which is the annual Gold Star Mother recognition day. That date was met and celebrated with a beautiful dedication ceremony attended by hundreds of people.
The story of United Veterans of St. Lucie County, Inc. continues with over 30 dedicated military member organizations working to support and care for the veterans of St. Lucie County. We can never do enough to thank them for all they have done for us. Watch this website for supporting events and be sure to be a part of our annual Golf Classic.
Thanks to former Chairman Ron Knepshield for contributing to this history.