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Door to door

New shuttle service takes Marquette County veterans to medical appointments

A man is pictured driving. A new shuttle service to get Marquette County veterans to local medical appointments is scheduled to begin today. The door-to-door service will be offered on a first come, first serve basis and should be scheduled in advance, organizers said. To arrange a shuttle, learn more about the program or find out how to volunteer as a driver, call 906-373-6191. (PeakPx stock photo)

MARQUETTE — Finding and arranging transportation to get to medical appointments can be a challenge for many people, especially in rural areas. Age, health issues, weather or lack of a vehicle are all reasons someone may need a ride to the doctor’s office.

For Marquette County veterans, a new program starting today provides door-to-door shuttle service for medical appointments in the county at the local Veterans Administration Community Based Outpatient Clinic or VA-approved Community Care appointments.

“There’s a lot of folks that don’t have the ability to get themselves to that appointment and don’t have the support structure to have somebody else get them to the appointments,” said Will Weycker, commander for the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22 in Marquette County and Michigan Veterans Trust Fund coordinator for Marquette County.

The service is aimed at those who are unable to drive themselves to an appointment due to illness, age, weather, or lack of other transportation, he said.

“The need for this program was identified over a year ago,” Weycker said.

A Disabled American Veterans shuttle van is pictured. Starting today, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22 of Marquette County is offering a door-to-door shuttle service for Marquette County veterans with appointments at the local Veterans Administration’ Community Based Outpatient Clinic or VA-approved Community Care appointments in Marquette County. The DAV shuttle is a collaborative effort among the Veterans Administration, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and Marquette County, organizers said. The shuttle aims to provide transportation for those are unable to drive themselves to an appointment due to illness, age, weather, or lack of other transportation, organizers said. (Photo Courtesy of DAV Chapter 22 Marquette County)

It’s important to recognize, he said, that because of the large area the shuttle service will cover, the program is offered on a “first come, first serve” basis.

Furthermore, those who use the program must be able to get in and out of vehicles on their own, he said, adding the vehicle cannot transport those with oxygen or actively contagious illnesses.

The program is a collaboration between the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22 of Marquette County, the Veterans Administration, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and Marquette County, Weycker said.

“It’s really a neat program because state, federal, and local government as well as a local organization are collaborating to bring this all together,” he said.

The vehicle used in the program was purchased through a Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency grant paid to Marquette County that also funds program administration, Weycker said. The vehicle is maintained and insured through the federal Veterans Administration.

The DAV Chapter 22, which already had a transportation program in place to bring veterans to appointments at the Veterans Administration Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center in Iron Mountain, recruits volunteers as drivers and also raises funds to purchase other vehicles.

“This program piggybacks off of that program that’s already started,” he said.

The grant funding and program likely wouldn’t be available if not for the existence of the Marquette County Department of Veterans Affairs and the Marquette County Veterans Affairs Committee, Weycker said.

These entities were made possible by community support, he emphasized, as a millage levying up to 0.1 mills for 10 years was overwhelmingly approved in 2014 for the Marquette County Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This would not have happened without the Marquette County Veterans Affairs office and Veterans Affairs Committee because they are who is coordinating and getting all of this outside money and other programs into the county,” Weycker said. “So that millage and developing that office has really helped the veterans community in Marquette.”

The DAV Chapter 22 Marquette County is a nonprofit veterans organization with over 325 members throughout Marquette County that seeks to empower “veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity,” DAV information states.

The chapter works to actively volunteer at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, provide transportation to medical appointments for veterans, insure veterans receive quality health care and “gain and maintain access to the full range of benefits and fight for the interests of our inured heroes in the Marquette area through our use of veterans service officers, interaction in the Marquette community, the Marquette County Veterans Alliance and Marquette County Veteran Affairs Committee,” according to organizers.

For those who need to get to an appointment at the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center, the DAV shuttle picks up veterans at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette, as well as several other locations along the route, organizer said.

Interested parties can schedule the door-to-door Marquette County shuttle or the shuttle to Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center by calling 906-373-6191. Rides are offered on a first come, first serve basis.

The local DAV chapter offers a number of volunteer and engagement opportunities, organizes said. To volunteer as a driver for a shuttle program, call 906-373-6191. Drivers are screened, medically cleared and trained by VA and DAV staff. Volunteers do not need to be a veteran or DAV member.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.