Volunteers get praise for getting veterans to medical appointments

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 28 August 2021 at 7:25 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: From left, Nancy Traxler, head of the Joint Veterans’ Council, Jackie Lonnen, office worker, and legislator Fred Miller pose with a cake honoring volunteer van drivers at Shelby Volunteer Fire Company on Friday noon. Certificates of appreciation were also presented to a dozen and a half volunteer drivers.

MEDINA – A dozen and a half volunteer drivers in the Joint Veterans’ Council’s van service were recognized at a reception Wednesday at Shelby Fire Hall.

The Joint Veterans Council director Nancy Traxler and van service coordinator Phyllis Schrader presented certificates of appreciation to the volunteer drivers.

The drivers are usually recognized annually with a picnic at the Joint Veterans’ Council office, but because 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the program, it was decided to celebrate with a catered lunch.

The volunteer van service was started Dec. 13, 1996 by Jim Andre of Kendall, who saw a need for such a service in Orleans County, Schrader said. They started with a card table, a phone and one van.

Frank  Tower was head of the Joint Veterans’ Council when Andre went to the American Legion and VFW to help in getting his idea started.

One of the longest serving volunteer drivers is Ralph Clute, who started in 1998. He said he has been amazed at how the program has grown over the years. Clute, who served in the Navy, said all of the drivers are veterans themselves or wives of a veteran.

Clockwise from left, Phyllis Schrader, coordinator of the Joint Veterans’ Council volunteer van drivers, and volunteer drivers Judy Larkin, Irene Braley, Butch Patten, Jean Karos and Lee Plummer enjoy conversation at a reception Friday recognizing the volunteers.

After starting out with one van and two drivers (Ron Weaver and Andre), there are now five vans and 25 volunteer drivers. There is always a need for more volunteers, Schrader said.

“This new generation doesn’t volunteer any more,” she said.

Butch Patten of Albion had been a longtime volunteer until he was forced to quit when he developed diabetes. Then he volunteered to work in the office.

Lee Plummer of Lyndonville became a volunteer because Schrader, a former classmate of his, talked him into it.

Traxler stressed how important the van service is to local veterans. She cited the case just recently when a 90-year-old veteran’s caregiver contacted the Joint Veterans’ Council, saying the man had no relatives or friends who could drive. He needed to get to some medical appointments, and the volunteer van service was able to set them all up and get him there.

“The volunteer drivers provide a great service to our community,” said County Legislator Fred Miller. “Volunteering is not a very thankful job. Our veterans have done so much for us, and these volunteers have my admiration.”