The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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April 14, 2014

Have van, need drivers to serve elderly

BROOKFIELD — Already forced to drop service for one day a week, Brookfield Township’s van service is desperately in need of volunteers willing to donate some time, according to Phil Schmidt, a former trustee and current van driver.

Schmidt, and his wife, Mary, are the only drivers the service has, he said, after two others dropped out last week.

“It’s a very important thing for the elderly in this community,” he said of the service that shuttles people to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores and beauty salons.

“There are a lot of people who just don’t have anyone to take them. Their children work all day or live out-of-state. They don’t have a car. They really depend on us,” Schmidt said.

He told trustees last week that he and his wife would cover four days a week, but said without some help that service will be suspended on Wednesdays.

The service started nearly 40 years ago, Schmidt said, when a citizen’s group bought the first van. “There’s no public transportation that these folks can take,” he said.

Drivers take residents generally between Brookfield and the Shenango Valley, Schmidt said, with occasional trips to Youngstown or Warren and it’s usually a four-hour day, sometimes less. New volunteers could offer whatever they can give, he said, and he’ll work it into the schedule.

“It doesn’t have to be every week. Whatever someone can do, we would really appreciate it,” he said.

All the trips are scheduled in advance and riders give a small donation for their ride, he said.

Requirements for driving are a clean driving record, he said, and added he thinks it’s a way for retirees to “give back to their community.” Volunteers don’t have to live in Brookfield, he said.

Schmidt has been driving the van for more than 10 years and said he enjoys the social opportunities it brings. “The same for my wife. She really enjoys talking with the others on the van.”

Trustee Dion Magestro said the van service essentially pays for itself and he’s hopeful a few people would be willing to donate a few hours a month to keep it going.

He agreed to the resolution that allowed the service to drop one day a week, at Schmidt’s discretion, but said he wants to spread the word that volunteers are needed and will start by posting notices on the township green.

To volunteer to drive the van, call 330-448-4500 for an application.

Van service by the numbers

87 Hours logged by drivers in March

1,265 Miles driven last month

333 Dollars collected in donations

137 Riders in the last three weeks

84 Gallons of gas used last month

40 Years that the van has been in service

2 Current drivers

72,000 Miles on the 2009 Dodge Caravan

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