Delaware veterans benefit from trust fund

HARTLY — Heading into 2017, Joseph Pflumm was on a roll.

The 33-year-old former United States Marine was nearing a degree in electromechanical engineering.

His two jobs included an internship that could catapult his career upon graduation.

Living quietly on his own in rural western Kent County suited the Operation Enduring Freedom veteran’s chosen pace.

Then tragedy struck.

Driving on West Denneys Road in north Dover on Dec. 31, 2016, Mr. Pflumm was struck head on by an approaching vehicle.

Suddenly, everything good in life was negated by severe injury.

The crash left Mr. Pflumm with a broken neck, shattered femur, fractured knees and hips, requiring inserted rods and screws to stabilize.

Working wasn’t possible, and income from two jobs evaporated.

According to the Friends of Delaware Veterans, Inc., “The vast majority (of veterans) do well and prosper from the disciplines they learn and live. However, some, whether due to physical or psychological injuries, or just the misfortune of a lost job or the illness of a family member, struggle to pay emergency expenses.
“The Delaware Veterans Trust Fund has paid bills to prevent shutoff of utilities, repossessions, and emergency repairs to needed vehicles. One recipient was provided a replacement for his 12-year-old eyeglasses. Another had a storage bill paid so he could access his tools and accept a job.”

Studying at Delaware Technical Community College was involuntarily put on hold, which halted his Veterans Affairs benefits for attending school.

Recovery from such trauma was clearly no easy fix.

“The crash pretty much turned my life upside down,” Mr. Pflumm said.

That’s when the Friends of Delaware Veterans Inc. provided at least a partial rescue.

The nonprofit’s Veterans Trust Fund program granted $1,500 to cover Mr. Pflumm’s rent for three months.

Without the rapid assistance, “There’s no way possible that I could have gone back to school,“ the grateful veteran acknowledged.

“It gives me assistance to finish out this semester.”

After filling out an application in what he described as a simple, straightforward process, Mr. Pflumm’s aid arrived within a month.

Now, by the end of spring, the 2002 Caesar Rodney High graduate will complete the six hours needed for a degree and soon begin a lucrative career in industrial automated manufacturing systems.

Thanks to Delaware Tech professor Jim Stephens’ direction to school military veterans services adviser David Strawbridge, who recommended the Veterans Trust Fund, Mr. Pflumm found a path forward.

Since early 2014, the Friends of Delaware Veterans has provided between $400 to $2,500 per case to needy ex-military men and women. The grant money is earned through group fundraisers and partnerships with outside organizations.

Mr. Pflumm was one of two recipients that Friends of Delaware Veterans President Dave Skocik recently interacted with, and the exchanges were rewarding.

“It was a very gratifying experience because it underscored the significance of how much this fund can pull veterans out of the fire,” Mr. Skocik said.

From left to right, are Jayson Pflumm (brother), Virginia Kachnic (grandmother), Liza Pflumm (sister), Alexis Pflumm (niece) and Joseph Pflumm (myself). This picture was taken the day I graduated from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, January 27th 2006.

Established early 2014

The Friends of Delaware Veterans was established in early 2014 with the help of Widener University Delaware Law School professor emeritus Tom Reed, a military veteran. Mr. Skocik said he, Friends Vice President Paul Davis and Executive Director of Veterans Affairs John Knotts lobbied in the summer of 2013 to gain legislative support.

“The deal was that if it were passed that it could not be a budget item in the state’s perennially tight budget,” Mr. Skocik said.

“The bottom line is that we agreed to work with and through the Commission of Veterans Affairs to create a separate organization tasked with fundraising. To my knowledge the Veterans Trust Fund is the only state-related organization that depends on outside funding.”

Contributions may be made to the Delaware Veterans Trust Fund, 802 Silver Lake Blvd., Suite 100, Dover, DE 19904. For more information call the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs at (800) 344-9900 or 739-2792.

No Friends board members receive compensation or reimbursement for personal expenses. All are military veterans, with eight of nine retired.

“This gives us additional perspective of ‘Been there, done that,’” Mr. Skocik reasoned.

Via the phone and in-person visits to its Dover office, the commission regularly receives applications. Then, members meet with the applicant, who is asked to bring proof of honorable discharge, a bank statement, and bills that are overdue.

Recipients do not receive money directly, rather their bills are paid through the Trust Fund.

Coordinating efforts with other organizations in 2016, the group raised up to $5,000 hosting events. A garden party hosted by a board member last fall raised $8,000.

The annual Trust Fund dinner at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino raised about $70,000. This year’s event is scheduled for Nov. 4 and $100 tickets come with a plated dinner and entertainment.

The average monthly grant total is about $10,000, officials said.

“That means we’re always working,” Mr. Skocik said.

The Trust Fund is based under the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs. The nonprofit account can only be used for veterans grants.

All donations are tax-deductible and can also be made on a Delaware tax return.

Only Delaware residents are eligible for grants, regardless of where they previously lived or served.

More information is available at For more information, call 739-2792.

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