DAV Volunteer Drivers of the Year

At our conference in September, we honored 5 DAV MN Volunteer Drivers. Below you will read their nominations from our DAV HSC’s (Hospital Service Coordinators).

Daniel Wood, coordinator for the NW DAV Transportation Program, nominates Mike Berneck as 2021 Volunteer of the Year. Mike has exemplified the meaning of service to others and continuously goes above and beyond the call of duty in service to local veterans with the humbleness of a saint. In April 2021 Mike volunteered for an extremely unique veteran transport. This transport brough him over 9 hours and 550 miles from home and overnight in the aid of a needing veteran. This transport was well outside of the normal requests received to bring a veteran to a medical appointment and Mike never faltered. Mike truly saved this veteran’s life because of his selflessness and the connection he was able to make with them.

Daniel Welsand, coordinator for the NW DAV Transportation program, nominates Ron Nindorft as the 2021 Volunteer of the Year. Ron started driving for the Volunteer Transportation Network in August 2017 (4 years), he is one of our oldest drivers in the program at the spry age of 83. Ron is one of the most flexible drivers in our program; we have called on Ron for numerous same day needs, and he has done many fill-in days when other drivers had to cancel due to other obligations or short notice projects. In just the last 2 1/2 years Ron has logged over 800 volunteer hours, driven almost 9,000 miles and assisted with 530 veteran transports. Ron continued and continues to drive through the Pandemic and
he volunteered at both weekend events at the Twin Ports Covid Vaccination Clinic this spring and assisted many local veterans in receiving their COVID vaccine.

Kati Carpenter, coordinator for the SE DAV Transportation Program, nominates David Rowlands our of the Olmsted County area. Dave has been driving for the DAV since it’s inception in 2019. During the height of the COVID pandemic when many volunteer stepped back, David drove two days a week most weeks to help keep the program going and ensure his local veterans received the care they desperately needed. David is also the Chaplin for the VFW Post 1215, serves on the VFW 1215 Color Guard and helps with the Korean War Veterans Club in Rochester. The Olmsted County Program would NOT have been able to continue to operate during the height of the pandemic without his commitment and personal convictions to serve to our veterans through the DAV Transportation Program.

Gary Wagner, coordinator for the Metro DAV Transportation Program, nominates Rick Hartz as 2021 volunteer of the Year. Rick started with the DAV volunteering as a driver 8 years ago, accumulating over 15,000 miles and 3000 hours of volunteer service. When he was no longer able to drive, he began working in the metro travel office three afternoons per week. In that time, he has amassed another 5500 hours of volunteer service. In that time, he has served thousands of veterans. He has become a well-known figure, not just around the DAV, but around the VA Hospital as well. He has learned every place to go and every person to contact when there is a veteran needing assistance and he never hesitates
to put those connections to good use to assist a veteran. He is always willing to do whatever is needed to help the DAV in accomplishing their goals.

Central Minnesota:
Jackie Lehmkuhl, coordinator for the Central Minnesota Transportation Program, nominates Fred Walz as the 2021 Volunteer of the Year. Fred has driven for the DAV Transportation Program for over 4 years. He is a very passionate and dedicated volunteer, driving throughout the entire COVID Pandemic. During the past seven months alone Fred has logged over 300 hours, driven over 5,000 miles and provided over 200 veteran transports while driving multiple times per week to help make up for the severe reduction of volunteer drivers. Anyone who knows Fred knows of his unique jovial personality, his ability to lighten stressful moods, and his gift of lifting spirits. Fred truly is both a rock and a gem to those who know him and was also recognized as 2019 DAV Volunteer of the Year due to his exemplary service.

THANK YOU to ALL the DAV Minnesota Drivers!