Cars for vets program expands

Around 10,000 people will get to see local group Operation Give a Veteran a Car (OGVC) supply a third veteran with a car on May 3 at an air show at Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, Va.

Gene Venham, president and founder of OGVC, expressed a desire to expand and grow the program across state lines during the first car giveaway in Marietta on Christmas Day. After sending articles and video clips to a former colleague in Virginia, the expansion became possible.

Venham said last weekend, the group gave a car to a veteran in Charleston, W.Va. The next car will jump another state, to Virginia.

“I didn’t expect to expand that quick and that fast,” he said.

Work on each car can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months and OGVC and the staff at New Weihl Body Shop are going to start this week on making the donated car look like it did when it was brand new.

“We’ve got a good group of people, both veterans and not, and they’re all focused,” Venham said.

He said he was approached by the Freedom Museum to see if a partnership would be possible.

“They wanted us to be a part of that and we jumped on it, we thought it would be great,” Venham said.

Tammy Perkins, a member of the Freedom Museum, and a former colleague of Venham’s, helped get the ball rolling on getting OGVC to be a part of the air show by contacting the Manassas Aviation Regional Business Alliance, which makes up all the businesses in the Manassas Regional Airport.

“All the businesses have to agree to be involved,” she said, adding she got the approval to give OGVC its own booth and a donation bucket. “They’re over the moon about OGVC.”

Jim Porter, president of the Freedom Museum board, said the air show should be something to see; amid a Flying Circus, P-51 Mustangs, many other World War II airplanes and parachute acts, the car will be given away.

“We’re real excited, teaming up with (OGVC) to give a veteran a car,” Porter said. “I thought it was perfect…It will make (the veteran’s) life better. It’s just exciting to be a part of it. The teamwork that has grown out of it has been amazing. Everyone wants to help out in some way or another.”

Porter added that the mayor of Manassas has decided to do something special for OGVC.

“He wants to give them the keys to the city,” he said.

Perkins said she is inspired by the “gracious” and “grand” work done at OGVC.

“The OGVC…I want to be a part of that for the rest of my life,” she said.

Perkins added that she’s been involved in various charities for years but OGVC stands out.

“I’ve been involved in charity; this is my favorite,” she said.

Criteria to be chosen by OGVC includes: income, background checks and current employment. Major criteria is that the veteran cannot already have a car and they must carry car insurance for the vehicle. There is no cost to the veteran.

People can suggest a veteran or veterans can inquire directly to OGVC.

The first car from OGVC, a 2002 Toyota sedan, was given out on Christmas Day to William R. Hagy of Marietta, who was riding a bicycle everywhere he went.

Venham said a big fundraiser for the group coming up is “Donkey Ball” which will be held at Marietta Middle School at 6:30 p.m. April 21. He said tickets may be purchased in advance for $6 or at the door for $8.

In addition to receiving cash donations, Venham said that cars were also welcome.

“We collect cars as well as give them away,” he said.

In fact, the New Weihl Body Shop currently has about five cars waiting to be fixed up and given to veterans.

Venham said that though he dislikes doing body work on cars most days, there’s one thing that makes it exciting.

“When I move over to the veteran car, it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s just exciting to see a veteran get something that’s going to change his life. It gives you that much more momentum to do the next one.”

Venham is still in awe of the fact that the program has grown so much already and is thankful of all the help and support received from the OGVC team and other contributors.

“We didn’t think this was going to go this big,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day, we’re taking care of the veterans who took care of us.”