An elderly man from Nanticoke has requested a free ride to his COVID-19 vaccine appointment this week — the first resident to take advantage of a new volunteer transportation initiative set up by the Luzerne County Cares Commission.
Commission Chairman Matthew Vough encouraged more residents 75 and older to request rides if they could use the assistance.
To date, 25 of 90 volunteers have signed a release form drafted by the county law office that clears them to provide the transportation, Vough, a county councilman, said during Monday’s virtual commission meeting.
The Nanticoke man learned about the service because one of the volunteers created and distributed a flier in city senior facilities, Vough said.
Residents can contact the county’s Area Agency on Aging to request a ride at 570-822-1158. Vough also can be reached at [email protected]
Vough said he expects the demand to pick up as more vaccines are delivered to local providers.
Volunteers will be grouped in four regions and receive emails requesting assistance when someone needs a ride in their area, Vough said. If someone accepts an assignment, they also will be asked to transport that senior for their second required shot unless they have a scheduling conflict.
The county Transportation Authority also has offered to work with the commission to provide van transport to groups of residents from the same senior living facilities or apartments if a mass vaccine site opens in the area.
Swoyersville resident Greg Griffin was highlighted during Monday’s commission meeting for his volunteer work in the region.
For more than a year, Griffin and a group of dedicated volunteers have removed litter along area highways and at illegal dumping grounds.
He and the other volunteers switched gears during the winter weather and have been installing donated insulation in the basements of low-income residences to eliminate drafts. Daylight is visible through gaps in some of these basements, he said.
“When we finish, there are no drafts. It’s usually a lot warmer,” Griffin said. “It’s been very rewarding for our volunteers.”
Griffin said he is trying to keep busy in retirement and help others. Although appreciative of the commission’s plans to submit a proclamation to county council honoring his work, Griffith said the spotlight should be on his volunteers.
“He thanks everyone but himself,” Vough said. “He doesn’t have to do this and does it out of the kindness of his heart. He’s a very good guy.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation provides bags and gloves for the litter pick-ups, and area pizza shops have been donating food for the volunteers, Griffin said.
Commission member Chris Perry, council vice chairman, said Griffin is a leader and inspired him to get involved in the next litter clean-up.
Griffin warned he and the more than 70 volunteers have become “addicted” to the satisfaction of protecting the environment and making the area look nicer.
“Our volunteers love it. They keep calling and wonder when is the next clean-up,” he said.
Commission Vice Chairman Joseph Grilli asked what commission members can do to help his efforts.
Griffin said he is working with Wilkes-Barre officials on setting up grant-funded security cameras at some sites to try to nab illegal dumping culprits, but more cameras are needed. He asked the commission to push for tougher penalties and more enforcement, saying his group has been forced to revisit some locations to remove fresh trash deposits.
“We’re having to clean up the same areas over and over,” Griffin said. “It’s absolutely a shame what they’re doing to our nature.”
Food and clothing donations
Commission member Justin Behrens thanked county residents for dropping off an “abundance” of food, clothing and blankets at the Keystone Mission, which he oversees.
The commission sought the donations for a food and clothing drive that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event will be held at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre on a still-undetermined date this spring and include access to local services that can help those in need with education, employment, counseling, housing and other essentials.
Until then, Behrens said his mission, which provides outreach services to the homeless, has delivered some of the donated items to people in need to fulfill requests. The mission is at 290 Parkview Circle in Wilkes-Barre.
“It’s not just sitting there,” Behrens said of the donations.