Volunteer drivers needed for veteran care services

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

Can you help a veteran? That email was sent to me and others by Jim Riesenberg, retired Sheboygan County Veterans Service Office and now a volunteer driver for the Veterans Administration (VA) out patient program. Because of heath limits of one volunteer and the passing away of a couple of other drivers, the number of drivers taking veterans to our local VA clinics is down to only a couple of people. As Riesenberg said in his email, there is a need for more then just “one wobbly kneed driver” such as himself. Help is clearly needed!

Riesenberg explained that Veterans who don’t have a car, driver, or just need someone to drive use this service. These volunteers take Veterans to the VA out patient clinic at Cleveland, sometimes a Hospital in Manitowoc and occasionally a clinic near Two Rivers. Most of the time volunteers will get anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks advanced notice. The veterans needing a ride, as a rule, are picked up and dropped off at the Veterans Service Office at the Sheboygan County Courthouse.

Riesenberg said that it has been his experience that a round trip will take upwards to three hours. Because he has some down time while waiting for the Veteran he always carries a good book to read - time passes quickly. He also stressed that you don’t have to be a Veteran to be a volunteer driver.

The Sheboygan County Veterans Office also did a news release requesting help from the community. They explained that, if available, volunteers will be driving a Sheboygan County vehicle (likely a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria). And, if the volunteer driver prefers, they can use their own car; mileage reimbursement form will be required to be filled out and reimbursement will be at .051 cents per mile. It is understood that volunteer drivers have other responsibilities at home and elsewhere - that is why it is important to have more drivers available. In that news release, they called the volunteer driver situation as “dire”.

But like any governmental program, those willing to help will need to fill out some paperwork. Registration form needs to sent to the Sheboygan County Veterans Service Office, along with a Sheboygan County application for the Human Resources Department and a copy of your Liability Insurance from your insurance carrier (it can be faxed). And, you will need to provide a copy of your Wisconsin Drivers License. All that information you need can be provided by calling Julie at (920) 459-3053.

Those willing to take on the job helping a small but important Untied States Veteran population will be providing a wonderful service. They will be helping fulfill a promise made to all service men and women by the citizens of the United States of America - your service to your county will not be forgotten.

As the Sheboygan County Veterans Office pointed out in their news release, rides are only needed on occasion. That appointments for the Veterans needing a ride will vary. It is usually not every week. Probably only a few times a month. The more drivers that volunteer the fewer times each will need to drive.

But to get back to Jim Riesenberg, who continues his service to Veterans in many ways long after his active military service and his years as Sheboygan County Veterans Service Officer. He seems like the “Energizer Bunny”, always on the go and always serving - but as he also said, you want more than just “one wobbly kneed driver” servicing these special men and women. So, if you have a few free hours a month, give a call to Julie at the number listed above. Thanks!

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