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.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cinematic Reflection

The Group Health Transportation Assistance Program, one of our valued partners, created a video that highlights many key elements of Volunteer Transportation.   When viewing it, we are reminded of: how much volunteer drivers love their unique role, the huge difference rides to doctor’s offices make in the lives of those who need them, the important social contact that takes place during rides, and the heartfelt appreciation clients express for the service. 

We’d like to share it with you here:

Perhaps someone out there in cyberspace will watch this video and feel inspired to serve as a volunteer driver right away!  Both Group Health and Volunteer Transportation are always in need of new volunteer volunteers.  Online applications for Volunteer Transportation can be found here.
Thursday, July 3, 2014

Client Profile: Mary Shadrick

Volunteer Transportation Client Tackles Hard Issues

Mary Shadrick, a Volunteer Transportation client for 21 years, never does anything halfheartedly.  Whether recreationally, politically, or professionally, Mary is never on the sidelines.  

Recently, the 86-year-old accumulated more activity points than anyone else in her Renton assisted living community.  With her regular participation in activities like Bid Whist, Bingo, Bunko, Rummikub, and exercise classes, Mary earned an impressive $30,000 of “money.”  This allowed her to purchase two watches and two necklaces at the facility’s auction.  These rewards illustrate her go-getter attitude and willingness to try new things. 

Active involvement is nothing new for Mary.  She was a dedicated participant at the Southeast Seattle Senior Center and became a lifetime member of the Central Area Senior Center after volunteering at its front desk for seven years.   The Bid Whist group that she started at the Central Area Senior Center continues to thrive.  She worked as a microbiology transcriber for the California Department of Health Services at UC Berkeley and served as a clerk for Judge W.J. Wilkins, renowned for his involvement in convicting leading Nazis in the Nuremberg trials.  

Even in difficult circumstances, Mary doesn’t hold back.  “I’ve always had to tackle the hard issues,” she says.  She became involved in local politics under the guidance of Sam J. Smith, a prominent black politician and civil rights activist.  She was the first and only African American in her role as clerk for Judge Wilkins, as well as the only African American in the microbiology department at Berkeley.   She speaks openly of the tokenism she encountered in these times and the prejudice she has experienced in more recent years.  “People don’t change overnight,” she explains.

But Mary doesn’t let these incidents get her down. She believes that she gets her strength from her mother, who was a strong role model for her seven children.  Mary also acknowledges the important role that her daughter plays in her life.   Her daughter gives her lots of important information to help her remain healthy, active, and well-informed.

Volunteer Transportation has been yet another source of support for Mary.   She hasn’t let challenges like giving up her car or moving to a new area prevent her from seeing her long-term Seattle doctors.  She often spreads the word about the program to other seniors who may need it and tells them, “It’s very reliable.  I’ve had good luck with the volunteer drivers; they are nice people.”   She can speak with conviction from her 21 years’ worth of experiences with the program.

It is clear that Mary Shadrick is fully empowered, ready to conquer any obstacle that gets in her way.

**Like Mary, you can jump right in to new and worthwhile activity: become a volunteer driver today! Drivers are needed throughout King County. Contact Hilary at hilaryc@seniorservices.org or (206)748-7588 to find out more.  
Friday, June 27, 2014

Positive Feedback

Today's pick-me-up comes from a letter we received from a long-term Volunteer Transportation client.  It reads:

I am extremely grateful for this very efficient and important service.  It has helped keep me healthy!  Staying independent is my main goal today & your service is very important in reaching that goal.  You're the best!  Safe and friendly drivers do a great job!

Safety, independence, health, friendliness, and client satisfaction-- she certainly summarizes all that we aspire to provide with our program!
Friday, June 13, 2014

Our Latest Call for Volunteers


Getting to the doctor’s office can seem daunting for many local seniors.  Poor vision or medical conditions prevent them from driving; limited mobility makes it impossible to take the bus; taxis come with prohibitive costs; and loved ones have full-time jobs that render them unavailable to help.  Yet, since 1975, Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation has served as a trustworthy resource for older adults throughout King County.  With its force of kind and reliable volunteers, the program provides the missing link between seniors and their necessary medical care.

But the value of Volunteer Transportation extends far beyond the rides themselves.  A volunteer driver serves as a friendly escort-- a companion-- someone to talk to along the way.  Volunteers turn previously stressful ordeals into pleasant, meaningful experiences.

You can help more seniors get “on the road” to improved health and peace of mind!  More volunteer drivers are needed throughout King County.  If you have a reliable vehicle, clean driving record, and some weekday availability, this is the role for you. Call (206) 748-7588, email Hilary at hilaryc@seniorservices.org, or visit www.seniorservices.org/transportation to find out more.  Discover why rides change lives!



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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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