NEWS

Rolling help center comes to the veterans in Franklin County

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Two 96- year-old World War II Navy veterans cut the ribbon to welcome the Mobile Vet Center to Franklin County. Pictured, from left, front row: Congressman Bill Shuster; John Beard, Waynesboro; Michael Ellin, Chambersburg. Back row: Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas (hidden); Rep. Rob Kauffman, 89th District; and Darren Brown, Chambersburg mayor.

A Veterans Fair in Chambersburg last Wednesday brought together  Congressman Bill Shuster, 15 service organizations, and the star attraction, a mobile counseling center.

The mobile unit made its first appearance in Franklin County at AMVETS  224, and many veterans were among the crowd of 80 that came to hear about its purpose.

Shuster, host of the fair, said the trailer would be at various places in the county for the next 90 days, with locations and times yet to be announced. Personnel representing the Department of Veterans Affairs would be meeting with veterans and their families to determine the need for services in Franklin County. The focus was on counseling, outreach and referrals.

“In the long run, we’d like to get a VA facility here,” Shuster said. “We have an obligation that veterans get the quality of services they deserve. Instead of them having to drive to Martinsburg, having a center in the community is critical.”

He added that many veterans did not take advantage of programs because they didn’t know about them, or were too proud to enroll.

The 38-foot mobile unit was equipped with two private offices; satellite, Internet and video conferencing connections; a wheelchair lift; fulltime driver and counselor. It was an extension of the traditional vet centers, designed to help veterans readjust to civilian life.

The fair

Vendors at the fair shared information on benefits, medical care, employment, education, housing and other services.

Penn State Mont Alto promoted its dedicated veterans center. Diane Chamberlin, director of enrollment management, said approximately 80 veterans and family members were taking advantage of opportunities on campus and off.

Kevin Malone, 56, volunteered to spend the afternoon at the fair to talk about being a college student. He had served in the U.S. Army and Pennsylvania National Guard. Working at Manitowoc Crane in Shady Grove, he was among the 55 employees taking PSU classes at the job site. Malone sought a business administration degree.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “If it was this easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do this 40 years ago.”

The company, as well as JLG, had partnered with Penn State to pay for the education of their employed veterans.

“They recognize the benefits to the employees,” said Chamberlin.

Greencastle resident James Farley, accompanied by his wife Linda, attended the event.

“I relish the opportunity to come to a fair where there are a multitude of agenices offering assistance in one place,” he said. “It’s a wonderful gesture.”