A volunteer transportation network hopes Veterans Day will inspire community members to find time to give back to those who served in the armed forces.
The central New York chapter of Disabled American Veterans is desperately short of drivers to take veterans to their medical appointments. The chapter is the largest in the country, with 42 vehicles serving veterans in 14 counties from the Canadian border to the Pennsylvania line. Scout Bill Gleason said he lost more than half of his drivers.
“When the times are good, we probably have 260 drivers,” Gleason said. “Right now we’re down to 116 because of the last three years, especially the year COVID hit, people were dying and people didn’t want to be in a van with people they didn’t know. “
Gleason, a Vietnam veteran, said they were slowly rebuilding capacity. But for now, he said, they have had to cut services even though demand has increased.
“We don’t work on Fridays because we just don’t have the drivers” Gleason said. “We have reduced the number of pickups, so the veteran must find a vehicle from a neighbor, family member, or someone else. »
The DAV travels over 830,000 miles in a typical year to transport over 20,000 veterans. Gleason said he was trying to spread the word about the urgent need for drivers.
“The other way to do it is to get veterans groups…VFW, American Legions, Marine Corps League, AMVETS and get them to put the information in the newsletter and then to all members “, Gleason said.
Gleason said their outreach seems to be working. More than twenty people expressed their interest. They are looking for drivers and office staff to volunteer one day a week or even once or twice a month. VA Medical Center policy requires drivers to complete an application, pass a simple physical exam and health exam, complete a background check, and have a valid driver’s license. If interested, contact Bill Gleason at 425-4343.