(WATERTOWN, NY) – The Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc. (VTC) is proud to announce it has received $10,000 from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield as a Community Health Award and sponsorship donation in support of the services provided to people in the community facing transportation barriers.

“We are extremely thankful to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for once again supporting our mission and for recognizing the importance of the work our volunteers do here in the North Country,” said Sam Purington, Executive Director of the VTC.

The Community Health Award from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield builds upon support the health insurance company showed last year when it awarded $5,000 to the VTC. This year, a $5,000 sponsorship was awarded to the local nonprofit organization with an additional $5,000 awarded in the form of an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Community Health Award. Through a competitive application process, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Community Health Awards help fund programs that improve the health or health care of a specific population, programs that aim to improve the health status of the community, closes the gaps in health disparities, reduces the incidence of specific diseases, promotes health education and assists our communities in dealing with COVID. The VTC applied for the additional funding in response to additional financial challenges seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve done whatever we could to ensure the safety of our volunteers and the clients they transport,” said Mr. Purington. “Normally, we’d transport more than one client at a time, when possible. However, as a way of doing our part to slowing the spread of COVID, we suspended that practice.”

That means transporting even two clients who live in close proximity to one another to the same destination or destinations close to one another, for example, was a practice put on hold.

“And by doing that, we have to send more than one volunteer, which increases our mileage reimbursement expenses,” said Mr. Purington. “We also saw some volunteers step back from driving at the start of the pandemic, which we completely understood, but that also meant we’d have to send a volunteer from farther away to pick up a client.”

That meant an even greater increase in mileage reimbursement expenses and a need to raise even more money to off-set that cost. That’s something that isn’t easy in the age of COVID, said VTC Foundation Director Jeremiah S. Papineau.

“When large, in-person events are how organizations like ours raise a good share of the money to carry out their missions, it presents a challenge during a pandemic,” said Mr. Papineau. “So, we have to work even harder to find support in other forms, like additional funding from generous organizations like Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.”

“The company’s Community Health Awards demonstrate a corporate commitment to support local organizations that share our mission as a nonprofit health plan,” said Eve Van de Wal, Utica Regional President of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “These awards complement our existing grants and sponsorships with agencies that work to enhance quality of life, including health status, in upstate New York. We recognize that the pandemic has created an even greater need to support local organizations within the communities we serve.”

“We cannot thank Excellus BlueCross BlueShield enough for their continued support,” said Mr. Papineau, who noted the funding from the health insurance company will be recognized with Underwriter Level sponsorship of all VTC events this year and will benefit services provided by the organization across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties.


Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company’s mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine.

With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit www.ExcellusBCBS.com.


The Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc. (VTC), established in 1991, drives thousands of miles each year assisting community members in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. Over the last 30 years, this essential non-profit organization has provided rides to health care appointments, grocery shopping, and other destinations for residents.

In 2020, our volunteer drivers provided 24,926 charitable trips over 913,921 miles in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. Of those miles, 404,009 originated in Jefferson County, 146,376 in Lewis County, and 363,536 in St. Lawrence County.

The staff, Board of Directors and volunteer drivers look forward to a time when transportation to community activities and services is accessible to all North Country residents regardless of economic or specialized needs. But for now the mission drives on — striving to provide transportation to health, wellness and critical needs destinations utilizing volunteers and mobility management for anyone who has barriers to transportation.

For more information about how you can help the Volunteer Transportation Center, about its upcoming events, or to become a volunteer driver, contact the agency in Watertown at 315-788-0422, in Canton at 315-714-2034, or Fulton at 315-714-9134. To learn more, visit www.VolunteerTransportationCenter.org.