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Disabled veterans group needs help with VA hospital shuttle service
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Disabled American Veterans driver Rick Chaffin, center, prepares to take veterans John Blackwell, left, and Charles DeLong to Decatur for their Veterans Affairs hospital appointments early Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. The DAV is having trouble replacing the current coordinator, who retires at the end of February, and may have to stop the longtime service for veterans. - photo by Scott Rogers

A longtime service for area veterans has a dire need of its own.

The Disabled American Veterans’ Gainesville chapter is trying to find a volunteer to coordinate drivers who shuttle veterans to the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Decatur and back home.

Max Corner has held down the job for several years, but at 77, is calling it quits, as it’s “time for someone else to take the position.” He has agreed to schedule drivers through the end of February.

“All you really need is communication skills,” Corner said in an interview last week. “I do a lot of it on the computer with emails.”

The job also entails working with veterans.

“They call me and give me the date they want to go, the time of the appointment and the clinic they’re going to,” Corner said. “Then I line up the drivers. … The veterans are very good in giving me as much (advance notice) as possible.”

Help wanted

Those interested in serving as driver coordinator in shuttling area veterans to the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Decatur can call 678-315-1165.

The service calls for picking up veterans from assigned van stops in the area — such as the Big Lots store off Browns Bridge Road — and taking them to the VA.

On occasion, the van service provides a lift for veterans with appointments at the Veterans Affairs clinic off Thurmon Tanner Parkway in Oakwood or the VA clinic in Lawrenceville.

“If we have an open date, we’ll do that,” Corner said. Otherwise, “we give priority to the VA (in Decatur).”

DAV officials have said the trips to the VA have become a much-needed and valuable daily service for many veterans.

“There are so many veterans who cannot drive or they are without transportation and they have medical appointments,” said Sam D. Smith, adjutant of DAV Chapter 17, in a 2014 story in The Times profiling the service.

DAV has a cadre of volunteer drivers also involved in the effort.

“We recently had a retirement gathering for one of our drivers who had 21 years (experience),” Smith said last week.

Corner said he has enjoyed his work with the service.

“I’m fortunate to be in good health, and I’ve got time,” he said. “I feel like that if you can use some of that time to help other people, that’s a good thing to do. It makes you feel good to help people, so it’s a little self-serving, as well.”

Driver Rick Chaffin, retired from the Air Force, can relate to veteran needs.

“I’m involved in several veterans’ programs,” he said. “One way to (be involved) is to drive the guys and gals who really need the help to the VA hospital.”