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Volunteer Transportation Center seeking Lewis County drivers, advisers

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The Volunteer Transportation Center Inc. is seeking Lewis County residents interested in serving, both as drivers and members of a new advisory board.

“We could use drivers all over the place in Lewis County,” said Judy A. Colton, Lewis County manager and transportation coordinator at the Watertown nonprofit agency.

The Transportation Center, incorporated in 1993, entered a contract in July 2011 with the Lewis County Department of Social Services to take Medicaid clients to appointments. It expanded its Lewis County efforts a little more than a year ago to include Office for the Aging transports, as well as medical appointments and monthly grocery trips for the general public.

“It’s steadily increasing,” Mrs. Colton said, noting she is now getting about 20 calls a day after initially getting about five daily.

Since the county, in cooperation with Birnie Bus, has a public transportation system, many local trips are handled by that company, she said.

“If it’s in the county, we try to work with Birnie,” Mrs. Colton said.

However, Transportation Center drivers, who donate their time but are reimbursed for mileage, often handle longer transports to Watertown, Utica, Rome, Syracuse or even out of state, she said.

The agency has about 130 volunteer drivers, with 40 to 45 in Lewis County, but is always looking for more, Mrs. Colton said.

For more information, or to become a volunteer driver in either Lewis or Jefferson counties, call the agency at 788-0422 or 376-3777.

The Volunteer Transportation Center also is forming a Lewis County advisory board to help plan some type of fundraiser — like the agency’s annual North Country Chili Cook-Off at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown — in that county.

The agency last year received a $10,500 annual contract from the Lewis County Office for the Aging, $5,000 from the Pratt-Northam Foundation, $5,000 from the Northern New York Community Foundation and $5,000 from the United Way of Northern New York toward the Lewis expansion’s startup costs.

Clients are asked to provide donations, but they are not required to do so.

The annual Chili Cook-Off, set to be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 2, is the agency’s primary fundraiser, bringing in about $40,000 last year to help offset program costs.

Now, Transportation Center officials would like to establish a Lewis County event to help cover ongoing costs associated with the expanded services in that county, Mrs. Colton said.

She said she has started contacting some county residents to gauge their interest in serving on the advisory committee.

However, anyone else interested is asked to contact her at the agency’s 203 N. Hamilton St. office.

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