SORCC seeks volunteer van drivers

If you have a valid Oregon driver's license and a clean driving record, Uncle Sam wants you — as a volunteer van driver for veterans in the Applegate and Illinois valleys, that is.

Under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair's rural health care outreach program, a van became available for each valley a month ago to carry veterans to and from the agency's Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City.

"We're looking for volunteer drivers right now," said James Cunningham, the voluntary service specialist at the SORCC who is heading up the volunteer drivers' pool.

One volunteer driver has stepped forward in Cave Junction, but officials have yet to find one in the Applegate, he said.

"It would be good to have three or four drivers in each area," Cunningham said. "We've put the word out there is a van available. We just need the drivers."

If a veteran needs a ride to the SORCC from the Applegate, a van is currently dispatched from White City to pick that person up, Cunningham said. Having a van in the vicinity will be more efficient for veterans living in rural areas, he added.

"Generally, drivers will have a heads-up when they are needed," he said, adding a local coordinator would organize the trips. "We would know one or two days in advance who is coming in."

All the veterans using the van must be ambulatory, he said.

"The volunteers would just need to transport people in the van," he said. "To become a volunteer driver, you need to go through a physical screening, have your license checked and be finger-printed. We do a police check."

The checks and paperwork take about a week, he noted. A commercial license is not required, but a valid Oregon driver's license is, he stressed.

"In a lot of these outlying areas, it takes a while to get the word out," he said of finding volunteer drivers. "We will set up some pickup points for the veterans. We'll be as accommodating as possible."

Anyone wanting to volunteer to drive the van can call Cunningham at 541-830-7467.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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