CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Veterans at Charlotte’s VA Outpatient Clinic are about to get some much needed relief for those needing help getting to the clinic’s front door from a nearby bus stop.
That bus stop is 2/10th’s of a mile from the clinic’s door and can mean a slow, painful walk for some veterans facing medical problems.
There is another obstacle for some at the end of that walk.
"They have 27 steps to climb or a steep incline in the driveway,” said John Fenesy, a veteran and clinic volunteer.
"If there's any kind of weather on them, it's going to make it that much more tenuous for them,” said veteran Michael Atherton, who was at the clinic Friday.
Fenesy started searching for a solution.
He contacted CATS and asked them to move the bus stop to the clinic. The goal was making it that much easier for veterans needing care, but who don't have their own cars, to get to the clinic.
Fenesy says the answer ‘no’ due to safety concerns and a bus' lack of ability to turn into and out of the clinic parking lot.
"It was very disappointing to me, but I understand. I don't want anyone getting hurt,” Fenesy said.
Clinic employees and veteran volunteers didn't give up. Ninth District North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger stepped in.
"We finally worked it out, we've got some vans that were just left idle in Salisbury at the building, so they've come in and we're going to get these guys up the hill and allow them to get the services they need,” Pittenger said.
Now, a VA outpatient van will pick veterans up at the bus stop and drive them to the clinic's front door and cover that that 2/10th's of a mile.
"I'm sure we're going to have more riders than we've had before and I'm sure it will make the veterans feel much better,” said Fenesy.
He expects the shuttle will carry at least 25 veterans a day and will encourage veterans who haven’t previously sought treatment at the clinic due to transportation issues to come.
Fenesy will be one of the new shuttle drivers.
"It will make me feel good to serve my brother veterans.”
Drivers are in training and the route is expected to start in a couple of weeks.