Among the new additions to NMC’s evolving campus is a small, navy-and-white electric vehicle, driven by local veterans who proudly wear the insignia of their branch of service … along with warm, inviting smiles. The Veterans Sponsored Valet Program at NMC launched this spring, and the response from riders has been overwhelmingly positive – partly due to the Veterans’ strong community connections.
Brad Bard recently took a ride in the valet vehicle from the Cobblestone Health Commons to the bus stop at NMC’s Main Entrance. He was glad for the help as his arm crutches make walking a challenge and he said that navigating to appointments can be difficult. Not only was the ride a welcome improvement to walking across campus, but Bard was also welcomed personally by volunteer Veteran Roger Spaulding.
Spaulding jumped out of the vehicle to help Bard and the two made companionable small talk during the quick trip to the main hospital entrance. As Bard waited there for a GMTA bus to take him home, he revealed that Roger was his neighbor and a longtime family friend.
“I’m walking because of him,” said Bard with a big small, relating how Spaulding had helped Bard at age six get admitted into the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal, which specializes in providing care for children with orthopedic conditions like Bradley’s. Nearly 35 years later, Bard is now independently mobile.
Mike Brouillette of St. Albans is at NMC on a regular basis. “It’s a really nice service because it is a long walk,” he said, noting the distance from building to building, especially for the elderly. “I hope they keep this service.”
Spaulding said he very much enjoys giving patients and visitors rides around campus. It allows him to help folks who need it, which makes the volunteer work very satisfying. “It’s nice to meet people that you haven’t seen in a while,” he said, and to make their day brighter.
Other veterans echoed his feelings. “Everybody loves the service” said Bill Bronson. He often hears from riders who are impressed with the quiet electric vehicle and appreciate the ride. As word of mouth spreads, the ridership has grown. In its first month the program had 62 riders, in the next two, the number had risen to 429 for June and then 456 for July.
Riders on recent trips from the parking areas to the hospital’s main entrance and around the Doctors Office Complex included things like “This is quite the buggy,” and “Nice ride!” and “I think this is a great service.” Comment cards collected from riders expressed appreciation for the drivers’ helpfulness, their promptness and a deep appreciation for the military service of the drivers.
Homer Wetherby, one of the volunteer drivers who has been part of the planning and start-up for the service, said that appreciation and thanks is heart-warming for him. “The thanks that you get is very rewarding,” he said.
He often strikes up conversations with other veterans on his drives, he sees people he knows and he answers questions for the community. The time passes quickly, and before you know it, his shift is over and he turns in his blue reflective vest. He and the other veteran volunteers are pleased to once again serve their communities in uniform.
NOTE: The Veterans Sponsored Valet Program is still seeking volunteer drivers. Click here for more information about the service, or if you are interested in volunteering, call 802-524-1299.