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Chapter doubles Transportation Network capabilities through recruiting

Hershel Howard, DAV life member of Chapter 27 in Russellville, Ark., was recently honored as the state’s volunteer driver of the year — representing quite the turnaround in the chapter’s Transportation Network.

When DAV life member Hershel Howard of Arkansas recently was named his state’s Veterans Affairs Volunteer Driver of the Year, it was symbolic of the hard work DAV Chapter 27 in Russellville, Ark., has put into improving their Transportation Network.

When Harry Komprood took over as chapter commander two years ago, there were only two or three volunteer drivers operating the Transportation Network. This limited the program’s operation to just two days per week. But thanks to the chapter’s drive and determination there are now over 10 volunteer drivers operating the program five days a week.

“Anytime we go anywhere and in all of our meetings we talk about the need for volunteer drivers,” said Howard, who has devoted more than 2,000 hours and 15,400 miles to the program since 2014. “I enjoy driving, but it’s about dedication and getting the word out,” said Howard, a Vietnam era Marine Corps veteran. “The more active your chapter is the better it will go. We just want to help them.”

According to chapter leaders, a key to their success is educating new and prospective volunteers on the impact of the program.

“In my time as a commander the one thing I have seen is that when the drivers believe in what they are doing, they are successful,” said Komprood. “Hershel sees the purpose in what he is doing, and goes out of his way to promote the program and gain volunteers. It’s hard for me to believe where we were at the chapter two years ago, as it was not even close to where we are now.”

To a local veteran population, the difference between a Transportation Network operating five days a week versus two cannot be underestimated.

“Put yourself in the shoes of that particular veteran who needs to schedule an appointment but will also need a ride,” said Komprood. “They have to know which two days the program is running before they can even attempt to schedule an appointment. It enables the veteran to just schedule the appointment without worrying about the schedule. We have easily doubled the amount of veterans we can serve.”

The community and the veterans around them have begun to take notice.

“The veterans are very pleased in our community because they can schedule an appointment any day,” said Howard.

“We talk to family members who are so thankful for the service,” said Komprood. “We are accessible to the community, and once they start to see what you do they want to help. It speaks highly of Hershel, our volunteers and our chapter. People are starting to see the services we offer.”

“It’s truly inspiring to see the growth in the chapter’s Transportation Network,” said DAV National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst. “While the needs are on the rise, charities nationwide are seeing a nationwide decline in volunteerism. So, it’s even more important that we share with people that they can give back to our veterans, and how meaningful this service is in their lives. Chapter 27 has done just that, and it shows in their results.

“In a short period of time, they have expanded their program by more than 100 percent, and that’s something we all can get onboard with,” added Kleindienst. “Chapter 27’s community and veterans alike are aware of their efforts because they are out there talking about it.”

DAV launched the nationwide Transportation Network in 1987, and since then, DAV departments and chapters, along with Ford Motor Co., have donated 3.286 vehicles worth over $73.1 million to VA health care centers across the country.

To volunteer your time with the DAV Transportation Network, visit https://www.dav.org/help-dav/volunteer/drive-a-van/.

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