ST. ALBANS — The Veteran’s Valet Service offered at Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) has been a success, in the view of its founder retired Rear Admiral Warren Hamm.
Hamm said that during a visit to the hospital he noticed people stumbling on their way into the building and thought that providing assistance to NMC’s visitors would be a good way for veterans to support the hospital.
“It’s as good for the veterans as it is for the people they’re helping,” said Hamm.
During the hospital’s busiest hours, volunteers operate an electric shuttle which can bring people from their cars to the hospital entrance. In addition, volunteers can park a visitor’s car for them and retrieve it.
They work in teams of two on two shifts from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with lunch provided by the hospital.
“We’re still serving and we’re still linked together believe it or not,” said volunteer Norm Goslin, 72. “We just don’t carry weapons. We carry smiles and handshakes.”
Goslin, who described pushing a patient in a wheelchair from the main entrance to the Doctors Common building, said, “The feeling you get from this is like giving blood minus the needle.”
Since the service started last April, volunteers have provided 4,750 shuttle rides, parked 1,240 cars, and assisted 1,606 visitors in wheelchairs, according to Homer Wetherby, who spearheads the program.
Ridership was highest in October when construction of the new medical services building disrupted parking, he explained.
“We’re at a pretty steady pace right now,” said Wetherby. “A lot of it depends on the weather. If it’s rainy and nasty out, people tend to ride.”
For more on the Veterans Valet Service, including information on how to volunteer or donate, pick up a copy of the weekend Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.