Volunteers recognized for veterans’ van service

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 December 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Jim Andre has been with the all-volunteer veterans’ van service since it started 16 years ago. He offered to drive veterans to medical appointments. A Korean War veteran, Andre of Kent continues to give his time with the service coordinated by the Orleans Joint Veterans Council.

Andre, right in photo, was one of three volunteers recognized during a luncheon on Tuesday at the Joint Veterans Council. The group also recognized Owen Toale, left, for his fund-raising efforts that helped the Council purchase two lower-mileage vans.

Gloria Kuhn, center, is volunteer coordinator for the program. She goes to the office on Route 31 at the Veterans Service Agency and connects drivers with veterans who need rides to appointments.

There are about 25 volunteers, including drivers and people in the office. The service has five vans. In 2013, they transported 1,040 veterans to medical appointments at no cost to the veterans.

This year, drivers transported 1,627 veterans to appointments (with a week to go), the most since the service started, said Paul Fulcomer, the county’s Veterans Service Agency director.

“We are the only county with a volunteer-run program,” Fulcomer told the group. “It’s veterans helping veterans.”

Kuhn said the service tends to have a shortage of drivers during the winter, when many volunteers head to Florida, Arizona and other out-of-state locations.

“My Christmas wish is more help during the winter,” she told the group.

Fulcomer and Kuhn said many veterans still don’t know about the program. In a marketing effort, she passed out hats to all the volunteers that say “Orleans County Joint Veterans Council.” The hats include a flag.

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