Donating Vehicles For Senior Transportation

Western National Insurance Group partners with VEAP to donate vehicles to its senior transportation program.
Volunteer John Peterson with the new VEAP van.

Press releases were written about the Dodge Caravan. Blue and green decals of Edina-related institutions were emblazoned on its white walls. And a company-wide mission set out to fill the minivan with food and other donations. It was a hyped partnership that started in April 2012 with the donation of the first van, but it wasn’t the first collaboration between Edina’s Western National Insurance Group and Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP) of Bloomington, Minnesota’s largest food shelf. Other VEAP program areas include transportation, social services and children and youth services. After donating 11 used vehicles to VEAP since 2005, the white minivan was the first new vehicle in Western National’s program “Driving Away Hunger” to assist with the senior transportation program. “One of the key things we do is to give to others,” says Ruth Lunde, a senior project manager and volunteer coordinator at Western National. “I think it’s great that our managers make it important.” For decades, dozens of Western National employees have given their time and energy to VEAP’s pantry and made contributions to its toy, holiday and back-to-school drives. Western National employees, who receive one paid day each year to volunteer, also aid organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Feed My Starving Children and many more. “It’s to act with integrity in the service of others,” says Steve Norman, director of communications at Western National. “We think that being a factor in improving the lives of our community is a major part of us here at Western National.” As Western National gave its 13th vehicle to VEAP this spring, the senior transportation program’s need continues to grow. VEAP started its transportation program to bring seniors to crucial appointments such as doctor’s visits, to the pharmacy for medication or the store for groceries. In 2012, the transportation program grew 10 percent to 7,200 rides. “As you can imagine, as a nonprofit, we had what we’ve loosely called a fleet of vans, 4 or 5, and one of them would be in need of repair and usually on its last legs,” says Patty Schulz, advancement director at VEAP. “To add a new van last year and now again … it’s huge to our ability to deliver that program.”   PLETHORA NEEDED FOR PROGRAMS To become the largest food pantry in the state, VEAP has called on many Edina volunteers in the organization’s 40 years. Currently, an estimated 113 Edina residents are among the 1,400 who chip in at VEAP, says Schulz. That assistance helps provide its food pantry, transportation program and youth and social services in Edina, Richfield, Bloomington and part of South Minneapolis. Schulz stresses that the support wouldn’t be possible without the help of other business leaders such as Jeff Boyle of Fidelity Bank, Pat Cline of Xcel Energy, Laura Weatherly of Think Mutual Bank and Stuart Henderson of Western National, among others. “We couldn’t do it without the support of the businesses,” Schulz says. “They support us in so many ways, financially as well as sponsoring other product drives … golf tournament or our gala.” Besides the growing needs of transportation program, food needs remain high with 27,000 visits to the pantry so far in 2013 and prepackaged bags of food increasing 18 percent to more than 500 distributed last year. “That is one of the great things about VEAP, regardless of what your faith or political affiliation or whatever, people recognize there are people in need in our community,” Schulz says. “They are people that wait on you when you go to do your grocery shopping at Cub (Foods) or they are the people working at the dry cleaner or cleaning the office building that you work in. Those are our clients … people that are working in retail and hospitality sectors are often working at low wage and no benefit and are seasonal employees, and depending on how the business is flowing, tend to be employed or unemployed from one day to the other.” & VEAP has outgrown its east Bloomington building and will be moving late summer  about a mile east to 9600 Aldrich Ave. VEAP can still be reached at