Every Wednesday morning before dawn, Ruby Jackson arrives at the American Red Cross Tri-County Chapter office, in Reading, Berks County. There she picks up a roster, a set of van keys, and starts out on a journey.
She carefully weaves her van along the narrow, winding city streets to arrive at the first stop. She gets out to help an elderly gentleman board and assists him with his seat belt. As she gets back into the driver’s seat, she looks in the rearview mirror and asks, “You ready?” With a nod from her rider, she’s off to the next address on her sheet.
Today there are only two passengers, but Ruby explains, “Sometimes every seat is full.” She laughs when she says that on those days, it gets loud. She arrives at the destination and with care, helps her riders off the vehicle. As they are walking away she reminds them, “I’ll be right here when you’re finished.”
Ruby, along with twelve other volunteers, ensure that veterans in the Berks County area have a ride to get to their medical appointments at the Lebanon VA Medical Center. Many of the riders do not have transportation of their own and would have no way of getting to their needed appointments.
The service is provided five days a week and is free of charge. In addition to providing a ride to a medical appointment, the time spent in travel provides veterans social time with others that understand them and can relate to their prior life experiences.
Any veteran who rides the program at least once during the year is eligible to receive a holiday food basket, given out in December. Community members and organizations generously donate goods to be given out.
This program has been running in Berks County for 30 years. They have a list of veteran’s over 450 and counting that rely on this needed service.
So who is Ruby Jackson? Ruby, a veteran herself, has been volunteering with the American Red Cross for eleven years. In addition to giving her time as a disaster volunteer, she was also active with the Meals on Wheels Program, and currently volunteers for the Berks County Red Cross Heroes event. When asked why she does this, she replies, “The reason I volunteer for the Red Cross is to pay back. I enjoy driving the vets because they are so worth it and so deserving. I am a vet also and to have that common denominator makes it easier to relate to each other. It’s double rewarding. Serving our vets plus representing this wonderful organization, the Red Cross.”
Compassion, Collaboration, Creativity, and Commitment are values that are essential to the continued success of the American Red Cross. Thanks to Ruby and her fellow volunteers, these values are put into action daily for our country’s veterans.
Take a moment to watch a short video about the Access to Medical Needs Program: https://youtu.be/6MJUZv3hdgo
Know of a Berks County veteran that needs help getting to their appointment at the VA Medical Center in Lebanon? Call 610-375-4383 today.
Would you like to volunteer to drive veteran’s to their appointments or volunteer another way, helping the Service to Armed Forces programs? Visit: http://www.redcross.org/local/pennsylvania/eastern-pennsylvania/volunteer