The Niagara County Clerk's Office has begun providing assistance to veterans by offering satellite office hours in Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda, once per month in each location. The idea is to create more convenient opportunities for veterans in need of help.
The first satellite hours were held on January 3 at the Department of Motor Vehicles office at 500 Wheatfield Street in North Tonawanda, where they will be held every first Wednesday of the month, from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Every third Wednesday of the month satellite hours will be held, from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., in the Trott Access Center, 1001 11th Street, in Niagara Falls.
Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski says until now, people seeking assistance from the Veterans Service Agency needed to travel to Lockport. While services will still be offered from the county seat, Jastrzemski says the inspiration to offer satellite locations came following a meeting with one such client who traveled from Niagara Falls but lacked his own means of transportation.
"He took the bus from Niagara Falls here to Lockport and it was almost two hours before the bus was going to be taking him back to Niagara Falls," Jastrzemski said. "I thought how foolish that is that he has to come all the way out here, and try and find a ride, and so forth."
The most common questions addressed, in addition to assistance with completing and submitting appropriate forms for benefits to which veterans are entitled, are housing and employment, according to Jastrzemski.
There are still existing parts of the county from which travel to Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda may not necessarily be convenient for some, including residents along the lake shore and rural areas. WBFO asked Jastrzemski about outreach to those potential clients.
"At the first of the year, what we do is send out notifications to all of the clerks in Niagara County. What they do is sign up with our Veterans Service office," he said. "We try to hit every town in the county throughout the year."
These new satellite office hours in Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda, though, will be regular scheduled. Introduction of these hours follow a similar outreach for pistol permit processing. Satellite hours for those services, according to the county officials, has worked.