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Volunteer Transportation Center establishes endowment fund

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WATERTOWN — Money for miles.

That’s what a recently established endowment fund for the Volunteer Transportation Center will provide for north country residents who need a ride to a medical or other important appointment. The fund is administered by the Northern New York Community Foundation.

“We’ve always been more of a ‘we-need-it-now’ agency,” said Samuel M. Purington, center executive director. “We still need it now, but we’ve been honored by a lot of people who’ve passed away. What we’ve seen in the past few years is an increase in people giving to the Volunteer Transportation Center. That got Jennifer Hodge thinking about the endowment.”

Mrs. Hodge is the agency’s development manager. She said as the agency plans for its future with endowment funds, it still needs financial support “to make sure day-to-day operations continue.”

“The endowment will not replace any traditional fundraising,” she said.

Mr. Purington said the center and foundation have a history with each other, with the foundation having been a “huge proponent of our agency in 2009.”

“We lost $52,000, and they kept us operating by giving us a grant of $52,000 and change,” he said. “They’ve been a huge part of our success.”

While the agency began providing transportation in Jefferson County in 1991, it recently expanded into Lewis County, and has plans to launch similar services in St. Lawrence County. In 2013, the agency logged just over 3 million miles, which encompassed 97,674 one-way trips throughout the north country and state. Volunteer drivers, who are paid either 55 cents per mile with Medicaid contracts or more than 40 cents for non-Medicaid trips, logged a total of 120,000 hours in 2013.

Meanwhile, the transportation agency has another reason to celebrate. During a Thursday reception at the Black River Valley Club, 131 Washington St., agency staff and board members honored a few longtime supporters: Cathleen J. Commeret-Whitcomb, who organized the annual chili cook-off; Dr. Henry L. George, who was a board member for 14 years, and founding board member Benjamin P. Coe. Mrs. Hodge said Mr. Coe has at times stepped in as a paid staff member and “made sure the agency stayed its course.”

To contribute to the endowment fund, call the foundation at 782-7110.

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