By DENISE GRANT
If you see a veteran at the Hancock County Fair, give them a wave, and see if they wave back, sporting a new hand fan from the Hancock County Veterans Service Office.
It is a small memento, but a fun way to spread the word that the office is working to improve communications with veterans, said executive Director Nicole Coleman.
This is the second year the veterans office has made an appearance at the fair. Coleman likes the venue. She said it is a good place to get out and talk to veterans and their families. This year, there is a lot to talk about.
The office is attempting to build a database of all Hancock County veterans. The database would be used for communications between the office and veterans on benefit issues and opportunities, and job opportunities.
Eventually, Coleman said she would like to begin a routine newsletter.
Veterans who register with the office at the fair will receive a hand fan to help keep them cool while visiting the fair.
Widows and family members of veterans, who stop to ask about benefits, will also receive a fan.
Coleman would like to see lots of fans waving around the fairgrounds this year.
Currently, she said there is no effective means to communicate with the county’s veteran population.
She has been collecting some information for a database, but has nothing comprehensive.
Veterans are being asked to stop by the booth in the Merchants Building and register for the database. Coleman realizes it may take some convincing, but she thinks it is an important step.
Veterans will be asked to provide contact information, military background, and employment background. Veterans can also request that the information be shared with the veterans representative at OhioMeansJobs, and with the Military Veterans Resource Center career counselor.
The information will be helpful in matching veterans with job opportunities, Coleman said.
“We have employers that can’t find employees with even basic job skills,” Coleman said. “That seems odd in this day and age, but that’s what we are hearing. They are interested in hiring veterans.”
The office is also contacted by employers and other organizations with short-term and other volunteer projects. Again, Coleman said, the database would help.
The information will be used by the office only and will not be given to any other entity for any reason, unless authorized by a veteran, she said.
“A lot of people believe we are a division of the Veterans Administration, and so any negative feelings that they have toward them, they have toward us, but we are not. We work with the VA, but we’re not part of it,” she said.
The Veterans Service Office, at 1100 E. Main Cross St., advises and assists veterans and their families in seeking benefits from the federal Veterans Affairs agency (formerly Veterans Administration), and other benefits provided by the office. It also provides transportation for Hancock County veterans to the Toledo Veterans Affairs Clinic and the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital.
The county office also makes picture identification cards for veterans.
A total of 5,602 veterans in Hancock County received about $13 million in benefits from Veterans Affairs in fiscal year 2010.