Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — For the past 10 years senior citizens in the Albion area have been having a small contingent of volunteers gas up their cars on Wednesday mornings.
The group that has been volunteering the longest includes Gary Kent, Clarence “Wink” Winkelmann and Gary Westlund.
Kent praised Winkelmann and Westlund for their dedication.
“They’ve done it every week since February of 2004,” he said. “They’ve been loyal and dedicated like you can’t believe.”
Along with filling gas tanks, the do-gooders also help some senior ladies who may be unsure about how the controls work in their new cars. They have also checked oil levels and put air in tires, Kent added.
About 10 to 12 people were with the group when it started a decade ago.
This past Wednesday a number of the group’s regular customers stopped by for a fill-up. Among them were Jean Thiel, Phil Burgess, Jean Jozwiak and Sarah Scurry. Thiel said she has been stopping by the Albion Crosby’s for the group to gas up her car for the past three or four years.
“I stopped here one day and just wound up here on the right day,” she recalled. “I’ve got heart trouble and don’t want to get out to pump the gas if I don’t have to.”
Burgess has been a regular for almost nine years. “They really help,” he said of the volunteers. “I’ve got an artificial leg and its hard for me to get out of the car for this.
“It’s a good service they provide because there are a lot of people who have trouble,” Burgess added. He noted he first heard of the service through the county’s Office for the Aging.
Jozwiak, a four-year customer, said generally speaking it is “better to have someone else pump gas for you.” She said the volunteers are friendly and “very courteous.”
Scurry joked that the volunteers are also helpful because they allow her to stay warm in her car when the weather is cold.
Kent said the original goal was to make the community a more senior friendly place, and gas pumping was one of the ideas that took hold.
He mentioned that the Albany Guardian Society recognized the group as being “the only service of its kind in New York State.” He added that when he told one of the society’s representatives that the volunteers are unpaid, she laughed. Also, when he told her of the rebate the volunteers give seniors - five cents per gallon out of their own pocket - the response was also one of incredulity.
“We’ve probably given back about $4,000 over the past 10 years,” Kent said.
Winkelmann, a former Marine and a retired corrections officer, said he started volunteering because he enjoyed it. Ten years later, he chuckled at how much he has become a fueling fixture.
“I’ve just taken it week by week and it’s gone real well,” he said.
Also, Winkelmann said Wednesdays are fun because it gives him a chance to see many of the people with whom he regularly attends church He added that the service is an important one for the seniors, especially those who now live alone.
“A lot of them don’t want to impose on their neighbors or their kids, and some women from that generation may have never pumped their own gas,” he stated.
Added Kent, “Doing this just gives you the feeling that you’re really helping people.”