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Donations keep Westmoreland program aiding veterans rolling

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 12:14 a.m.

A program that provides veterans with free rides to medical appointments will continue next year with no cutbacks.

Matt Zamosky, director of the Westmoreland County Veterans Affairs office, said a passenger van will be purchased with a private grant received this month.

“We've been helping more than 40 veterans a week, and that's a lot of veterans,” Zamosky said. “To do this at minimal cost is amazing.”

The county's 36,000 veterans are eligible for the Disabled American Veterans Department of Pennsylvania program, which provides transportation to medical appointments in Pittsburgh. The only requirement is that veterans be able to walk.

There are two 10-passenger vans that service the county, one based in the Greensburg area and a second that predominately operates in the New Kensington area.

Rides are available five days a week and are scheduled through the county veterans office. Volunteers drive the vans.

A year ago, the program was struggling for survival because of a shortage of drivers. Zamosky said five drivers are licensed for the program and four more are seeking approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs to become drivers.

“We're actually better off than we were,” Zamosky said.

Two new vans have helped the program to flourish.

Earlier this year, an Export couple, Bernard and Pat Forcier, donated a van for the program. The Forciers could not be reached for comment.

Last week, county commissioners accepted a $15,000 grant from the PNC Charitable Trust, money Zamosky said was donated by a Murrysville couple, to purchase a second van.

The new vans won't broaden the scope of the program at this time, Zamosky said. Rather, they are replacements for older vehicles that have become too old to use.

Once more drivers are approved for the program, it could be expanded, Zamosky said.

“There are a lot of older people who can't drive or don't feel comfortable driving in Pittsburgh, and that's where our vans go,” he said. “The need is there.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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