BY JANIE ROSMAN
While Harvey Gultz and his wife Norma have called Chestnut Ridge home for nearly 40 years (since March 1976), he has another home within his heart, this as a volunteer.
Gultz, a Vietnam War veteran, stocks the food pantry shelves at Rockland Independent Living Center in New City and drives veterans to and from their appointments at the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System’s New City Community Clinic.
Both volunteer positions are through the Rockland County Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, which is sponsored by Rockland Community College.
“A truck laden with pallets of food comes from the Regional Food Bank in Latham in the Albany area, and a certain amount is allotted to each food pantry,” he said. The program is called Get Fresh and is run by Together Our Unity Can Heal (TOUCH) in Congers. “We load it back to RILC. February will be two years.”
RILC Deputy Executive Director Lorraine Greenwell, LMSW, MPH, said Gultz is a “dedicated volunteer who has become part of the RILC family. He takes the initiative and is very proud of the work that he does.”
Greenwell said Gultz helps keep the food pantry going. “It takes a lot of manpower and effort to get food to our location. He makes himself available to us, and we appreciate him.”
A medic during the Vietnam War, Gultz said his activities were like a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) unit. “We did first aid and triage,” he said, which makes transporting veterans to their appointments poignant for him.
“They (RSVP) request me to drive them to the VA or the doctor’s office,” he said. The seniors walk with canes and may hold his arm while walking up a curb.
Gultz said his camaraderie makes the veterans’ days more cheerful. “I got to know many of them well, and many depend upon me,” he said. “They sit next to me, and we talk, I take notes. Some of them you could literally hug.”
“He is a man of commitment,” RSVP Program Assistant Susan Ball said. “When he takes on a project he does it wholeheartedly, and feedback has been wonderful. He takes veterans to the clinic, and sometimes he stays with them and takes them home and some of the veterans go to the VA in Montrose.”
One of the veterans Gultz transports, and befriended, is a 90-year-old World War II veteran who served in Normandy. Gultz and his wife of 45 years (next month) were there in April via a cruise ship from France. “The visit was unbelievably emotional,” he said.
One place they visited was Pointe Du Hoc, where German soldiers threw grenades on French soldiers as the allied forces were climbing the wall. “This is history,” Gultz said.
Now retired, he worked in the men’s clothing industry for a pants manufacturer in Rockefeller Center selling and purchasing fabric, and then worked for an upscale store in Garden State Plaza.
RSVP’s Independence Project is always looking for drivers due to high demand. Call 845-356-6818, ext. 11, or email [email protected].
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