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Donors provide two low-mileage vans for vets transport service

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 September 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Two 2010 Dodge Caravans recently replaced older vans in the Orleans Joint Veterans Council’s fleet of vehicles that are used to take veterans to medical appointments. Pictured, from left, include sign maker Greg Stanton, program coordinator Gloria Kuhn and Paul Fulcomer, the county’s Veterans Service Agency director.

ALBION – Nine months ago the Orleans Joint Veterans Council put the word out that its fleet of vans was getting old. Many of the six vehicles were well past 100,000 miles.

The council sent out 150 letters, asking for help to replace some of the aging vans. One anonymous donor offered to give a 2010 Dodge Caravan to the council instead of trading it in. Many people also stepped up with financial support. That allowed the council to buy another low-mileage Dodge Caravan.

That has made it a little less stressful for the volunteer drivers and their passengers. The “new” used vans are less likely to break down on a trip to the Buffalo VA.

The council acquires and owns the vans, and the VA pays for the gas and maintenance. The service is free to veterans.

The two new vans have decals advertising the transportation service for veterans. Greg Stanton of Stanton Signs designed and put on the decals. Stanton, a veteran, has been going to the VA in recent years. He praised the quality of care.

He said more veterans should pursue medical care through the VA, which is no charge to veterans.

“At the Batavia and Buffalo (VA), everybody welcomes you,” Stanton said.

But getting to the appointments can be a challenge for many elderly vets, or younger veterans who may not drive or who battle disabilities.

In 1996, the council started the volunteer-run transportation service. That first year about 200 veterans were driven to medical appointments, mostly in Batavia and Buffalo.

The organization now has six vans that delivered 1,015 veterans to appointments in 2012, taking them to Batavia, Buffalo, Canandaigua, Syracuse and Bath. The council has eight volunteers scheduling rides and 22 driving the vans. They put in 5,210 volunteer hours last year.

Gloria Kuhn, the volunteer coordinator, praised the office crew and drivers for their dedication.

“We have a wonderful program here,” she said. “We’re very proud of what we do.”

The council welcomes more volunteers. Owen Toale, a  retired newspaper publisher with 27 years in the military, started volunteering a few years ago. He often drives a van twice a week. He said it is very rewarding to help the vets access needed medical care.

Toale helped rally donors to replace two of the vans. He said the council needs to work on raising money to replace more vans in the near future.

For more information on the program, call (585) 589-2856.