The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Center will help GIs, vets, families
BY SCOTT SHENK
Thanks to a federal grant, Culpeper will eventually serve as a hub to help needy active military personnel, veterans and their families find transportation options in the Rappahannock–Rapidan region.
While the five-county region already has a pilot call-in center aimed at helping the disadvantaged with transportation needs, the office is small and has only two part-time workers. And it doesn’t specifically focus on helping military families.
The $172,303 grant will help the Rappahannock–Rapidan Community Services expand the call-in center’s mission and move it to a bigger place, said Ray Parks, director of aging and transportation with the agency, which covers Culpeper, Fauquier, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock counties.
When it’s done, the new office will share space with the Culpeper County Senior Center, which had planned its own renovations because of a lack of space.
The call-in center won’t be affiliated with the senior center, Parks said, but sharing space will meet both their expansion needs. The total cost of the combined expansions is expected to be about $750,000.
The new call-in center will help those connected with the military find transportation options to such things as jobs, school and medical appointments.
Using a phone service and a website, the center will offer resources, referrals and information on what transportation options are available.
The service is something that is sorely needed in the region, said Parks.
“This grant opportunity was perfect,” he said.
He said the region’s military veterans have to travel long distances to get many of the services available to them. Offices of such agencies as the Virginia Department of Veteran Services, Veterans Benefits Administration and the Wounded Warriors Program range from 50 to 100 miles away for some vets, many of whom have no transportation.
“The need is definitely there,” Parks said.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood touted the grants earlier in July, saying they “will help connect veterans and military families with the jobs and training opportunities they deserve, as well as the medical care and other services they need, all located close to home.”
Parks said agency officials hope to begin work on the expansion within a year to 18 months. In the meantime, they’ll be trying to raise the rest of the needed money.
“If we could have it up and running within two years, that’s pretty good,” Parks said. “We’ve got a few hills to climb.”
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436