Santa Cruz veterans hall lunch program operator withdraws

SANTA CRUZ >> A popular free weekly veteran lunch program operator discontinued its service this week, its director citing financial disputes as the cause.

Operation Love Our Vets Executive Director Lisa Tkoch said Thursday that the nonprofit took over the 5-year-old Wednesday Veterans Service Day lunch program’s management in March. While being receiving an average of $150 a week to feed an average 100 to 120 people “with dignity,” Tkoch said her insurance, gas, transportation and staff costs go beyond the reimbursement.

This, Tkoch said, despite lack of a contract that would allow the group to apply for grant funds, even as weekly attendance has nearly doubled, by some estimates. Like a business, Operation Love Our Vets needs to stay solvent to continue, Tkoch said.

“Yesterday, I cried. We had to stand down. We can’t just keep losing money in this program,” Tkoch said. “We have run this program in the red. We know that the donations coming in are just being funneled to a different organization who’s not implementing the program.”

Tkoch described an ongoing conflicted personal relationship with the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building Board of Trustees, American Legion members and others. She said she was ready to pull out of the program prior to Christmas after a communication with the building’s board president, but did not want to leave veterans without a planned special Christmas meal program.

Representatives from American Legion Post No. 64,…

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