MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 5, 2012

VAMC valet parking a hit with veterans

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Richard Swinney said Monday that the new valet service at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center is a great service.

“I love this. I think it’s one of the smartest things they’ve ever done,” said Swinney, a veteran from Foyil. “There’s always been a shortage of parking here and this is the perfect solution.”

Hustle and bustle filled the portico at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center on Monday as the new, free valet parking service for veterans kicked off.

Swinney sat on his walker as he waited for his vehicle to be brought around after he brought his father-in-law to the VA for an appointment.

Swinney’s wife Jerri was also delighted with the service.

“My dad did not make his last appointment because he couldn’t find a parking space and he can’t walk that far,” she said about her father, Cecil Austin.

As valet Russell Patrick handed Swinney his keys a few minutes later, Patrick told Swinney, “Thank you for your service.”

Valet parking at the VA Medical Center is the brainchild of Associate Director Bryan Matthews.

“I’ve been working on this since I’ve been here because, to me, the arrival experience is just as important for our veterans as the experience they have inside,” he said. “Many people have been working hard on getting this contract in place for 2 1/2 years now.”

And though some veterans continued to parked their vehicles themselves, many were taking advantage of the new service. More than 45 cars were parked by valet drivers by 11 a.m., said Jamie Narramore, president and chief executive officer of Liberty Management Services, which earned the contract.

Narramore watched the valet at work Monday and was pleased with their work.

“We contractually have 10 minutes to return with a vehicle, and we’ve been averaging three to five minutes,” he said. “And this gentleman here (Russell Patrick) came up with the idea to thank every veteran for their service each time.”

Tips aren’t accepted for the valet parking service, though if veterans insist on making a donation instead, the money will go to the hospital’s Voluntary Services department to help veterans in many different ways, he said.

Lead Valet Bill Thompson said some have already tried to tip.

“I had a man who insisted on tipping, so I told him, ‘If you want to give, we’ll give it to Voluntary Services, but sir, your service is already enough,” Thompson said.

Valet parking will be available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Drivers only need to bring their cars to the main entrance to use the service.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.