Veteran’s Van Fund

Veterans Van

Linda S. Fergason, Executive Director of The Portage Foundation met recently with members of the Portage American Legion Honor Guard from Portage Post 496 – a group of Portage County veterans. They are seeking donations to help purchase a newer used van to transport honor guard members so they may continue to pay final tribute to fallen comrades. To date, $18,000 has been raised toward the $30,000 needed, and additional support from local foundations and individuals is needed. Donors who contribute $2500 or more may also have their name on the van.

The veterans from American Legion Post 496 in Kent provide the ceremonial military funeral honors each year year around the Kent area. Without hesitation, the honor guard, consisting of more than 20 volunteer members, performs its ceremonial duties about 70 times a year. When a local veteran dies and his family request the military funeral honors, the honor guard responds with seven riflemen, one sergeant and a bugler dressed in American Legion uniforms. The guard attends church services for the deceased veteran and performs a 21-gun volley at the cemetery, or what is deemed appropriate by the family. Earl Kilchenman is a Kent resident, a proud veteran and the enthusiastic leader of the effort to purchase a van for the Portage American Legion Honor Guard states, “Often after a funeral, family will thank the guard for participating in the burial service with great emotion. It’s a final way to honor and show gratitude for a veteran’s service to their country”. The guard also participates in Kent’s Memorial Day Parade, Heritage Festival, various Veterans Day ceremonies and events at local schools and area nursing homes. “By doing this we salute all who have served, and show our respect of the sacrifices that were made by veterans for everyone’s freedom, to make a better life for all. The van we use on a regular basis has had some ongoing mechanical issues, and we know it’s time to buy a reliable vehicle so we can continue our work.”, Kilchenman added.

Linda Fergason, the new Executive Director of Portage County’s only community foundation said, “It was obvious that the honor guard is a longstanding and impressive tradition, and the veterans that met with me from the American Legion are proud, devoted servants. To speak with each of them about their military service was truly humbling. The Portage Foundation is a community foundation that wants to help them achieve their goal to buy a new vehicle to safely transport the honor guard throughout the year. They have approached additional foundations in the area, and now put out the plea to the general community.

To be a contributor to the Veterans Van effort to raise an additional $12,000, checks may be made out to The Portage Foundation with “Veterans Van” noted in the memo line. The Portage Foundation is located at 138 E. Main Street – Suite 201, Kent, Ohio 44240, and Fergason can be reached at 330.474.0480.

American Legion representatives Kim Kilbourne or Post Commander Joyce Hannum may also be contacted via the Post 496 on Mogadore Road in Kent at 330.673.9743.

Honor Guard members pictured include L to R:

  • Joyce Hannum, Post Commander, served in the U.S. Army in Lebanon, Grenada and Panama
  • John Capien, Korean War veteran and past Post Commander
  • Earl Kilchenman, World War II veteran
  • Linda Fergason, Executive Director of the Portage Foundation
  • Kim Kilbourne, American Legion Post 496 Canteen Manager
  • Hank Mattern, Honor Guard Commander and Vietnam veteran
  • Vern Pees, Vietnam veteran
  • For more information contact the The Portage Foundation at 330-474-0480 prior to September 15, 2014