Vandals hit Senior Services vans

Published 9:19 pm Monday, November 22, 2010

Some particularly nasty vandals struck two car dealerships in Franklin over the weekend, heavily damaging eight vehicles owned by Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia that are used to provide services to elderly residents of Western Tidewater.

The vandals damaged a total of 14 vehicles Saturday night. Some were owned by Blake Ford Mercury, as well as an adjacent dealership. The rest, however, were Senior Services vans that Blake Ford Mercury allows to be stored on the property free of charge.

“What these people did was wrong,” said John Skirven, chief executive officer of Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia. “It’s very disappointing, particularly because so many people depend on this.”


Email newsletter signup

The vandals shattered windshields and windows on all eight of the vehicles, Skirven said. In two wheelchair-accessible vans, the criminals discharged fire extinguishers throughout the vans’ interiors.

The vehicles are used to provide I-Ride shuttle services in Franklin, Southampton and Courtland, to transport seniors to senior centers in Zuni, Franklin and Suffolk, to deliver frozen meals to seniors in rural areas, to transport seniors in Franklin to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic in Suffolk, and to provide seniors transportation to their medical appointments.

The medical transportation is the most pressing need, Skirven said.

“Our big issue is the medical transportation where we carry people to the doctors,” Skirven said. “That really is the biggest hit.”

Repairs to the wheelchair-accessible vans could take as much as two to three weeks because of the heavy damage from the fire extinguishers, Skirven said. The organization is seeking volunteers who will provide rides for seniors to get to their appointments.

“If people begin to volunteer, that would really be a great help,” Skirven said. “If people would help right now, we could definitely use it.”

Senior Services was able to restore I-Ride service in Franklin Monday, using vans redistributed from eastern Hampton Roads. The I-Ride is a form of public transportation that takes people on an eight-mile loop in Franklin, allowing about 5,000 riders a year to get to shopping, work or doctors’ offices.

Meal delivery should be back in service by Tuesday, Skirven added.

Folks wishing to volunteer should call 461-9481 and ask for Latasha, the transit volunteer scheduler, Skirven said. Senior Services volunteers are screened carefully, he added.

Monetary donations to help the organization with insurance deductible payments also will be accepted. To donate, call 461-9481 and ask for Mary Howell.