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New vets council forming

A new group — the Baker County Veterans Council — is forming to help support local veterans and their families.

Tony Esterling, director of the Baker County Veterans Affairs office, said the council aims to recruit veterans and their families to join forces and assist other area veterans in any way they can, whether it’s financial help, mowing a widow’s lawn or guiding a veteran to employment or housing.

The council recently raised money to help a disabled veteran who lost his job and was in danger of losing his home, Mr. Esterling said.

The council is seeking nonprofit status through the Internal Revenue Service, which among other benefits will allow donors to write-off their charitable gifts and reduce their federal tax liability.

Mr. Esterling said that while IRS approval will help boost fundraising, the council is already taking donations to help area veterans and their families.

“I’m on my own out here, so the council is a way to access a whole network of people in the community,” he said.

Membership in the organization is open to anyone who served honorably in any branch of the military, including the US Coast Guard and Merchant Marines, or who is a family member or widow of a current or former service member.

The council meets on the second Tuesday of each month at Huckleberry Moon Party Supplies, 1230 S. 6th St., at 6 pm. The  next meeting is July 10.

Mr. Esterling is making contacts with churches and other organizations in the county, like the Macclenny Moose Lodge, to build membership in the group, which he said already has about 20 active members.

“We’re still in the infancy stage. We have a banner, a chain of command and we’re talking about the best ways to spread awareness and recruiting members,” he said. “We have a lot of veterans here.”

For more information about the Baker County Veterans Council, please call Mr. Esterling at 259-2516.

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