Local Military Veteran Receives Donated Vehicle
Source: Pierre Claeyssen's Veterans Foundation
In American society today, acknowledging veterans for their dedication to and sacrifice for our country often begins and ends with briefly uttering the cursory phrase - “Thank you for your service,” or, attending fun celebrations to honor the military. While these gestures are appreciated by our men and women in uniform, there are more meaningful ways to truly make a difference in the daily life of a vet. According to Justin Constantine, a writer for Military.com, “Too often we think holding a parade or shaking a veteran's hand is the extent of our duty to them. But if we really want to honor veterans, we should do something more substantive. What you do for a veteran is often more important than what you say.”
It was this philosophy that compelled Cindy Loustalot, an office manager with 40 years of experience at the Santa Barbara-based accounting firm of Macfarlane, Faletti & Co., to find a new way to make a charitable contribution that would make a significant difference in the life of a vet. When she recently decided it was the right time for one more “new car” in her life, she wanted to make sure her beloved and well-maintained Toyota Tercel, with 114,000 original miles, went to a local, deserving person who had served in the military. She reached out to her friend Paula Michal, who has two combat veteran sons and also serves as the VETNET Advisory Council Member at the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation (PCVF). Cindy met with Hazel Blankenship, the Founding Co-Director of PCVF and in less than a week, she was connected to Navy Submarine veteran Joseph Swearngin. PCVF assisted her in reaching out to him and arranged a face-to-face meeting. There, she handed him the registration paperwork and two sets of keys to her old vehicle, allowing him to drive off with the car, and, new-found freedom.
Ms. Loustalot’s generous gesture is making an immediate, positive impact on Joe’s life, since he was lacking a source of reliable transportation to and from both school and work. She says, “I’m so glad Paula shared her firsthand knowledge of PCVF’s mission and the wonderful support her sons and other vets have received through their affiliation with this organization. I love that Hazel connected me right to Joe, allowing me to direct my in-kind donation to a real and deserving recipient I was able to meet in person and actually forge a relationship. Providing Joe ‘wheels’ with no strings attached was easy, fun and a fulfilling way to make life better for someone that has given much for our country.”
Joe, who hails from a small town in Missouri, served in the US Navy for 5 years directly out of high school, and later, attended community college in San Diego. He went on to receive his BS in Physics at the College of Creative Studies at UCSB and his Masters in Physics at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Physics at UCSB. He is an adjunct Professor at SBCC and mentors veteran students at both UCSB and SBCC. Joe was using the bus to travel between the two campuses set over 10 miles apart, as well as his part-time job at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Mr. Swearngin says, “I’m usually in the business of helping students and other vets, so it’s a nice change to be on the receiving end when it comes to getting assistance. I intend on making good use of Cindy’s car and hope to use it for many miles to come. I’m really grateful to her and the great people at PCVF!”