Bruce Wood uses a 1993 Chevrolet Caprice to chauffer aging veterans around to doctors’ appointments and essential errands. The car recently needed some fixes, but Wood decided to go ahead and spend the money so he could have a nice roomy car for his passengers.
“I keep this old Caprice because it’s easy to get in to and out of,” said Wood, who is among a cadre of volunteers who work with the Veterans Enhanced Transportation Service (V.E.T.S.) to give veterans and their spouses much needed rides to doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
The program, which is a cooperation between the Prince William Area Agency on Aging and Volunteer Prince William under the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), aims to give senior citizens 55 and older a chance to volunteer to help veterans, said Barbara Diehl, an agency supportive services specialist.
Diehl said the volunteer drivers say they get a kick out of driving the vets around. “The number one theme we heard, over and above all else, is that there’s an opportunity to give back to their community and say thank you to veterans.”
Wood, who retired about 18 months ago after a 38-year career with the Department of Interior, said he likes hearing the veterans’ stories, and he likes helping them, as well. “I was looking for some more volunteer opportunities. I was never in the military, so I thought this would be a good way to give back to the military.”
Colleen Herson, with RSVP, said the program has been a success. “We’ve been doing the program for a year. We’ve had 30 people volunteer over the year, and we’ve taken people all over the place. We had a lady who needed dialysis. She couldn’t put off her appointments. We gave her six more months of independence.”
Wood regularly drives George Downing to the doctor, and Downing said the rides are invaluable in helping him keep his weekly appointments. “I don’t have to worry about getting a ride to the doctor. I just call them and give them a couple of days’ notice and they’re always here,” the 73-year-old former U.S. Navy petty officer said of the volunteers. “The people are very nice. They’re very helpful, and I don’t have to worry. I know that they’ll be here rain or shine.”
Wood said he would urge people who have the time to sign up to see if they like the program. “I’m not looking for a permanent job or anything, so it’s really nice to meet neat people like George. It’s a positive thing. I would encourage people who have time during the week to at least check in with RSVP or the Area Agency on Aging. It’s fun.”
Visit the Area Agency on Aging
webpage and find “Veterans Assistance” for more information, or call 703-792-6374.