Friday, October 17, 2014

Pained but Positive

Life is challenging for Barbara.  At 86, her body isn’t what it used to be.  She's had both knees replaced; she has a herniated disc in her back; and she suffers from extreme sciatic nerve pain.  She often feels overwhelmed and out of sorts.  “Sometimes, it’s like we’re drowning in everything.  All we want to do is just lie down,” she says as she talks about how she and her 88-year-old husband, Charles, spend their time. 

But the two of them still manage to get out and about.  Barbara and Charles both have frequent medical appointments, and they rely on Volunteer Transportation drivers to get them to clinics and home safely again.

Barbara didn’t feel up for an interview at this time, but she was very clear over the phone that she had a message to share with all those involved with the Volunteer Transportation program: “It has been tough to lose our independence, but you have made it easier.  It is an awesome program, and I think everyone who is a part of it is awesome.  I really do.  I can’t imagine life without it.” 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Accepting Help

When seniors first sign up for Volunteer Transportation, they frequently express a sense of relief to have discovered the program.  They are eager to receive rides from our volunteer drivers and thankful to have the service available to them.   Their spirits are high. 

But this is not always the case. Often times, there’s a sense of reluctance as seniors prepare to become Volunteer Transportation clients.  They are hesitant, even resistant, to register for the program.  Family members sometimes clue us in to their states of mind, “My dad really did not want me to contact you guys!  He is just so stubborn.”

It’s more than just stubbornness that prevents clients from embracing our transportation services with open arms.  Accepting help is hard.  Our society generally frowns upon those who can’t manage things on their own; independence is a fierce American value.

Anne Togher of Philips Lifeline also reminds us of the generational factors at play.  She writes, “Most seniors today are part of the generation called the Traditionalists, or the Silent Generation,
and the way they grew up is considerably different than the generations following them and the generations serving them. They are the generation who experienced some part of the Great Depression, they worked hard, stayed in their jobs for decades, and saved their money. Their values include sacrifice, loyalty and contributing to the collective good. Asking for help has not been part of their vocabulary and accepting it is even harder.”

It is important for us to acknowledge that, especially initially, clients of our program may come to us from this place of ambivalence.  It may not have been easy for them to reach out to us at Volunteer Transportation, but we hope that they will be forever grateful that they did. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Volunteer Transportation in AgeWise King County

 
The October edition of AgeWise King County features a thoughtful reflection about Volunteer Transportation.  You may recognize the three clients it describes from their more detailed profiles found on this blog.  Check it out by clicking here!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Client Praise

Our quote of the week comes from Rose S., an 87-year-old client from Bellevue who has used Volunteer Transportation for 11 years:

“You have a wonderful group of people. I'm so happy I found you. I can't begin to tell you how much I respect and appreciate you. Your program is a wonderful, wonderful support for people like me… I am eternally grateful. To find people like you is reassuring… I tell everyone that you are my guardian angels."

Our "angelic" volunteer drivers are happy to be a source of support for seniors like Rose.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Volunteer in the Limelight: Shari Hanbey

Volunteer Driver Preserves Art of Letter Writing

Volunteer Transportation drivers often employ a myriad of technological tools to keep themselves occupied as they patiently wait for seniors during medical appointments.  Many use ipads , Kindles, smart phones, or laptops to pass the time in waiting rooms throughout King County.  But Shari Hanbey, who has been a volunteer driver for six years, doesn’t require any modern devices for downtime during the rides she provides for local seniors.  All she needs is a pen and paper.  

Shari is devoted to the art of letter writing, and that is an understatement.   She typically sends out over 20-25 letters per month to people in places throughout the USA and world.  Her husband’s role in the military meant that they lived in 16+ locations (both domestic and overseas) during his 27 years of active duty, and Shari keeps all friendships alive with handwritten messages.  Each one averages to be about two pages of updates and news—both good and bad.   She admits that her letters aren’t works of art, but they are full of love.

Shari values connections and knows that getting a letter in the mail is more special than receiving an email, a text message, or a Facebook post.  She notes all anniversaries and birthdays on her perpetual calendar and makes sure to compose a given message about 6 days ahead of time.  Her dedication to letter writing was so strong that she was even asked to send all correspondences for her women’s group.   As if this weren’t enough to keep her busy, she also sends out thank you notes for all good deeds and has 170 families on her Christmas card list.  She works hard to stay in touch with people who’ve been a part of her life. 

Shari has received support in her letter writing efforts.  One friend, a self-proclaimed garage sale addict, recently spent an entire year buying any letterhead or stationery she could find.  She gave Shari a huge collection of it for Christmas, and they joked about how long it would take her to go through it all.  Shari reports that it is almost gone.  

Whether she is kindly escorting a senior into a clinic or carefully choosing the right words to wish a friend a happy birthday, Shari is thoughtful in all that she does.  Serving as a volunteer driver allows her to combine several important acts: serving others, building relationships, and letting people know how much she cares.  Shari Hanbey does all three as she volunteers— both in person and on paper.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Client Profile: Marie Trotignon

Volunteer Transportation Helps Writer Fight Vision Loss
 
Marie displays her three published books:
Dancing in the Rain: A Collection of Raindrops
and Rainbows, And He Shall Be Called Nicholas, and
The Dance of the Blue Crab.
In Dancing in the Rain: A Collection of Raindrops and Rainbows, author Marie Trotignon reflects on the endurance and resilience of the human spirit.  Marie uses each unique vignette to poignantly demonstrate how we can cope with life’s storms by learning to dance in the rain.

Dancing in the Rain is one of Marie’s three published books, but the 84-year-old has been writing stories ever since she learned to write.  Writing is a constant in her life; it is her talent, her solace, her joy.  Her love for words runs deep. 

Marie is also a passionate reader.  She has held many different jobs over the years, but her favorite was when she was an elementary school librarian.  She knew every book in the school and could make recommendations for children of all ages.

Yet, in one of life’s unfair ironies, Marie developed macular degeneration several years ago.  At first, it allowed her to continue on with her normal routines and activities.  But it progressed and soon caused words to disappear or turn into mumbo jumbo on pages.  Writing became a challenge, and reading was nearly impossible.  She struggled to make sense of words.

Losing her vision has been difficult hurdle for Marie to get over, but she is determined.  She says, “Books have always been my love, and it’s hard not to read a book.  Books are sitting around here waiting to be read.  I’d like to find something to help me. ” Marie’s treatment plan includes getting shots in her eyes every two weeks.  This process is far from enjoyable, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to hold on to as much sight as she can. 

Just like the characters of her book, Marie looks on the bright side of this unpleasant process.   One of the silver linings of the injection ordeal is meeting the Volunteer Transportation drivers who take her to/from her eye appointments.   She says, “I just can’t praise the program enough.  The volunteers are such nice people.  They are friendly, competent, and qualified.  I’ve enjoyed meeting each and every one of them.”

As a story enthusiast, Marie also values learning about the lives of the volunteer drivers as they chat during the rides.   She reports, “They are comfortable conversations.  It doesn’t feel awkward with any of them.”   Each person has a story to share.

Marie still writes daily and attends a writing feedback group once or twice per week.  Like all authors, she has many ideas about her next projects, but she never knows where they’ll end up.  She explains, “You sit down with something in mind, but then it writes itself.  Your characters come to life.  They lead, and you have to follow them. ”

Marie’s life has unfolded in a similarly unpredictable fashion.  There have been bumps and storms.  But Marie is still dancing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Client Profile: Phyllis Peterson

Volunteer Transportation Provides Independence for Issaquah Senior
 
87-year-old Phyllis Peterson has lived in Issaquah for over 25 years and has watched the city grow abundantly within that time.  When Phyllis first moved to Issaquah’s Providence Point, she was much younger and healthier.  Her only appointments were routine checkups and dental cleanings twice a year.  On those rare occasions when she had appointments, Phyllis did not worry about anyone else’s schedule because she was able to drive herself.   Phyllis drove herself to and from her medical appointments for the next 15 years.

That all changed the day she suffered from a stroke.  Her calendar soon filled with appointments that she couldn’t reach.  Her children were willing to assist her as much as they could, but she knew she could not expect her kids to take care of her for the rest of her life.   She states, “I lost my
independence the day I sold my car.”  She was determined to find a way to stay independent.

“It’s funny what can come up in random conversations,” she says.  Phyllis remembers talking to her neighbor at Providence Point over 10 years ago about a transportation program she used to help her with her medical appointments.  Her neighbor explained how volunteers used their own cars and would pick her up at home, wait for her to finish with her appointment, and bring her home. 

Phyllis thought it over and realized this program could be the solution to her problem.  She could still get to all her appointments without asking her family to take time away from work.  She could keep her independence just by asking for a little assistance.  All Phyllis had to do was call Senior Services.          

For the past 10 years, Phyllis has become well versed in asking for transportation assistance.  “I know the rules of the program, and they are very simple to follow.”  She now recommends Volunteer Transportation to others who are going through the same situation as she did 10 years ago.  Phyllis states, “I know what it’s like to worry.  With Volunteer Transportation, all the drivers have been on time, kind, and courteous.  I don’t know what I would do without them.”


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“Behind the Wheel” offers stories, reflections, news, and updates about Senior Services’ Transportation Program. Throughout King County, our inspiring volunteers provide needed mobility to local seniors, supporting them in their efforts to remain independent, healthy, and happy. Please drop by to read more about the unique experiences of our volunteers, clients, and staff!
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