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Vets van to arrive in Alpena soon

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The Alpena County Veterans Affairs Office is seen on Friday. Local Veterans Affairs patients will soon have a new van to be used to shuttle veterans to and from appointments downstate. The van is expected to arrive in the next three weeks or so.

ALPENA — Veterans in and around Alpena who depend on the local Disabled American Veterans chapter for transportation to and from medical appointments downstate have been unable to use the ridesharing program because there hasn’t been a vehicle available to make the trip.

That is about to change, as a new, 10-person van is expected to arrive in Alpena soon and begin shuttling veterans to Saginaw, Ann Arbor, and Detroit clinics for needed care and back home again.

Last June, the local DAV said its old Ford Explorer was decommissioned and a fundraising effort to purchase a new van began.

The community stepped up and not only raised enough money to help pay for the van but also keep money in an account to be used toward the next vehcile that needs to be purchased.

DAV Treasurer Rebecca Mott said the van was expected to be delivered sooner, but the closure of auto plants because of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a delay in the construction of the custom vehicle.

She said it appears now the van will arrive in Alpena in the next several weeks. Mott said it could have taken until September to receive the new van, but she has been working the phone and was able to get it sooner.

“I told the (Veterans Affairs) headquarters that we can’t wait any longer and how bad we needed it,” Mott said. “We were told that we will now get the first one that comes off of the assembly line. I told them we would come to pick it up if that would speed up the process, so we will be going to Kentucky to get it. We are ready to go as soon as they have it.”

The total cost of the van is $42,000, but Ford picks up half of the cost, Mott said.

Mott said the DAV also needs volunteer drivers to assist veterans in the van once it arrives. Last year, more than 300 veterans used the ride program, she said, and that was despite the fact it was only offered for half the year.

She said there are eight trips a month, but only three drivers. Eight drivers, she said, is the ideal number.

“That would allow each driver to only have to make one trip per month,” she said.

Mott said a volunteer just needs to have a valid driver’s license and complete a background check. She said they also have to pass a simple physical completed by the VA.

For more information contact, the Alpena County Veteran’s office.

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