- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

A volunteer army of SUV owners rolled through the area's snow-covered streets this week to help doctors and nurses reach their jobs and improve their unpopular image.
"I really can't believe the outpouring of the volunteers," said Jackie Hubbard, a staffing assistant at Prince George's Hospital Center. "We've had to turn people away."
Mrs. Hubbard said about 30 drivers in sport utility vehicles gave rides to hospital staffers and that roughly 100 more drivers called but were not needed.
"They could be doing a lot of things on a day like this," she said. "They could be next to the fire reading a good book or lying in their bed. I know that's what I'd be doing."
More than 20 area hospitals, nursing homes and hospices asked for help delivering essential staffers and in some cases patients as nearly 2 feet of snow made roads too slippery and clogged for most cars.
Many hospital administrators said they got help from citizens with SUVs.
"It's an amazing display of volunteerism," said Dr. Richard Goldberg, vice president of medical affairs at Georgetown University Hospital, where about 50 SUV owners volunteered.
The efforts come at a good time for owners of SUVs, or four-wheel-drive vehicles.
In the past few months, critics of SUV'shave become increasingly strident. A series of advertisements on national TV accused SUV owners of helping terrorism because their gas-guzzling vehicles support oil-producing Arab countries linked to terrorism.
One advertisement showed people sitting in SUVs saying: "I gassed 40,000 Kurds," then "I helped hijack an airplane," then "I helped blow up a nightclub." The ad ends with them saying in unison, "We did it all by driving to work in our SUVs."
Another ad proclaimed: "The biggest weapon of mass destruction is parked in your driveway."
Among the more outlandish of the commercials was one by the Evangelical Environmental Network that asked, "What would Jesus drive?" The group also said Christians should not drive SUVs because they harm the environment.
Still, Phil Heuschen of Arlington felt pretty good yesterday about owning an SUV.
Mr. Heuschen, 26, started driving staffers and patients to Inova Alexandria Hospital on Sunday at noon, went home at 2 a.m. and was on the road again yesterday at 9 a.m.
He said the roughly 40 volunteer drivers developed a sense of camaraderie over the two days and reveled in each other's snow stories.
He also said the volunteers talked about how their efforts might stop people from questioning their transportation choices.
"If it wasn't for SUVs, people wouldn't be getting around," Mr. Heuschen said.
Tony Snesko, 56, of the District was untroubled by the "What, would Jesus drive?" campaign against vehicles such as his. He and his wife, Valerie, spent Sunday delivering meals in their SUV to people dying of AIDS for the group Food and Friends.
"That's what Jesus said to do," Mr. Snesko said. "I figured I needed to start doing what Scripture tells me to do, which is help people in need. Where would America be without SUVs in this mess? … It was unfair for them to come down on SUVs the way they did. I feel extremely vindicated today."
D. C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday asked for SUV volunteers to assist with emergency operations in the city. Drivers who can help are asked to call 202/727-1000.

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