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Home is Where the Van Is
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Sharon J. Alfred and Stuart Hales
 
October 12, 2007

Charlie Hahn considered his fellow disabled veterans in northwest New Jersey to be his family. So when he died, he made sure his family had a place to call home.

James C. Abline, Sr. shows off the veterans’ transportation program van provided through the generosity of the late Charlie Hahn and the Morris County Disabled American Veterans. Photo credit: Bonnie Ayers.
James C. Abline, Sr. shows off the veterans’ transportation program van provided through the generosity of the late Charlie Hahn and the Morris County Disabled American Veterans. Photo credit: Bonnie Ayers.

In his will, Hahn left his house to Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 63 in Morris County. But rather than move into it, the DAV sold the house, bought a van with some of the proceeds, and donated the van to the American Red Cross of Northwest New Jersey.

Since Hahn had no personal connection to the Red Cross, why would the DAV use the money from the sale of his home to purchase a van for the organization? The answer lies in a local law—one that prohibits Morris County from providing transportation service across county lines.

Keeping Medical Appointments

"The hospitals are located in other counties, and veterans had no way to get to these facilities," explains James C. Abline, Sr., director of emergency services for the American Red Cross of Northwest New Jersey.

With the county government unable to help, the Red Cross began providing van service to help veterans keep their medical appointments. Abline estimates the van service provides between 20 and 25 free round-trip rides per month.

The van program isn't a taxi service, so a veteran can't reserve a van to take a trip to the supermarket or bank. But for occasions like official formal dinners and hospital visits, all a disabled veteran has to do is call ahead so the chapter has time to reserve a driver and van for the scheduled trip. The van picks up the veteran up at his or her door, waits at the destination until the veteran's appointment is over, and takes the veteran back to his or her home.

The new van makes these trips even more convenient for veterans because it's equipped with a global positioning system that provides the volunteer drivers with the most direct driving instructions. The van also serves as a tribute to Charlie Hahn, whose name is inscribed on the outside of the vehicle.

Recruiting Volunteer Drivers

The American Red Cross of Northwest New Jersey creates flyers to advertise the transportation program and recruit volunteer drivers. The flyers are posted in places where veterans congregate, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts.

Volunteer drivers who sign up for the program must (1) provide the Red Cross with proof of a safe driving record and (2) pass a safe drivers' course. The chapter then administers a road test to check drivers' familiarity with the vehicle and its operation and their knowledge of the vehicle's outfitting (for example, the rear seats of the van fold down so that it becomes wheelchair accessible).

To learn more about this and other programs offered by the American Red Cross of Northwest New Jersey, visit the chapter's Website.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.


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