BALLINGER – Veterans from across Runnels County drove to Ballinger on Friday to fill up at the Stripes Convenience store thanks to the Veterans Assistance Program offered through Central Texas Opportunities and organized by Runnels County Veterans Service Officer Sandra Van Zant.

BALLINGER – Veterans from across Runnels County drove to Ballinger on Friday to fill up at the Stripes Convenience store thanks to the Veterans Assistance Program offered through Central Texas Opportunities and organized by Runnels County Veterans Service Officer Sandra Van Zant.

Under the program, veterans, their spouses and or widows or widowers, are eligible for up to $500 each in gas thanks to a grant from the Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans Assistance.

This is the first of several like events coming to the area, Van Zant said. There are plans to schedule a second event at The Crossing in Winters in coming weeks.

The cars lined up around the store, located in the 2000 block of Hutchings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“It has been very busy,” said Van Zant, who was manning a table in the parking lot to help veterans to sign up. “We’ve had cars wrapped around the building. But that’s what we’re here for.”

Van Zant said that CTO has applied for another grant as well. Overall the grants offer things like utility assistance, rent or mortgage assistance, case management, transportation, medical and dental assistance and employment services and referrals.

Those eligible for the programs are veterans, a surviving spouse or dependent.

Gordon Gloria, program director for CTO of Coleman, was also helping the veterans and spouses with paperwork.

“I have met a lot of interesting folks,” said Gloria. “We have applied for another $300,000 grant from the Veterans Commission.”

Gloria called the gas event a rousing success and the first one of its kind for Runnels County.

“We want to put another one on in the future,” he said.

He said he hoped to schedule events like this once or twice a month.

Glen Donham, a retired senior chief from the U.S. Navy is the CTO representative in Runnels County and he was assisting the veterans as well.

Meanwhile, the veterans were very pleased with the event.

“This is great,” said Ronnie Keith Crowder, of Ballinger who served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper from 1965-67.

Ebb Grindstaff, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict, was also in line.

Clay Dixon, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1980-92 was filling up the cars for his family as well.

David Prosise, who proudly wore a cap emblazoned with the 18th Engineer Brigade on it, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1968.

“I’m all for this,” Prosise said. “They didn’t respect us when we first came back but they are starting to now.”

Central Texas Opportunities, Inc. serves clients in Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, McCulloch and Runnels counties.