Friday, May 22, 2015

Small World Story: Reconnecting with Long-term Family Friends

Auburn circa 1920.
When Lee (volunteer driver) took Marie and Roy Petersen to an eye doctor appointment, they certainly had a lot to talk about!  Marie and Roy, both 93, have known Lee and his family for many decades, and they’d often crossed paths in Auburn.   Marie had frequently volunteered for various community programs with Lee’s mother, Elaine, and Lee had carpeted the Petersen’s home and cabin for over thirty years prior to his recent retirement.  Marie was happy to see a familiar face and commented, “It was so nice to see him again!”

Lee, Marie and Roy all know a lot of local history.  Lee was born and raised in Auburn; Marie moved to Auburn in 1943; and Roy was born in Algona (Auburn’s neighbor) in 1921.  Community involvement is important to all of them.  Although they’ve seen the area change a great deal over the years, their reconnection demonstrates that Auburn still can have that “small town” feel at times.

The Volunteer Transportation program is full of such serendipitous reunions, and volunteers and clients often discover many commonalities.  This inspires a possible new tagline for the program:  See what worlds collide during a ride!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farewell to Amy

Today is a sad day for the Volunteer Transportation community as we say goodbye to Amy Husted.  Amy first started at Senior Services as an MSW intern in 2011 and has served as our Eastside Coordinator for four years. Staff, volunteers and clients of the program have come to know Amy as a dedicated, cheerful, thoughtful and efficient worker who always makes time to support people in need.  Although we are all happy for her as she begins the next steps of her career, she will certainly be missed!

Upon Amy’s departure from Senior Services, we asked her to reflect about her experiences with Volunteer Transportation:

What do you think makes Volunteer Transportation such a valuable program?
Volunteer Transportation provides much more than transportation; it offers a means to build relationships with people in our community.  Clients, volunteers and doctors are all able to connect with one another through this valuable service and volunteer opportunity.  It’s exciting to think of neighbors helping neighbors, retired pediatricians taking their (now older) patients, or community members reconnecting with distant family members or long lost friends.  What a wonderful way of making the world a better place!

What have you enjoyed most about your work at Volunteer Transportation?
I've enjoyed working with a strong and supportive office team and lovely volunteers to provide a much needed service to our community.  It has been a joy to be a part of this amazing group of people. 

What has been a challenge for you?
Saying goodbye.  I hate goodbye.

What has been most memorable for you?
I always enjoyed the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheons.  Although I work closely with the Eastside and West Seattle/Burien drivers each week, I worked with many South King County and North King County volunteers when a co-worker was out of the office.  It’s fun to match people’s names and voices with a human being!  I appreciated seeing all the volunteers celebrating together in one place. 

What have you learned from your time at Volunteer Transportation?
My time with Volunteer Transportation has taught me many things but the most influential lesson learned is the perseverance of the human spirit.  Whether it’s losing a devoted partner of 40 years, living with a chronic condition, or struggling with memory loss, people are strong and resilient.  They are capable of so many things.

Thank you, Amy, for all that you've brought to Senior Services over the last several years!  We know that you’ll continue to lighten the lives of others as you move on to your next professional role.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Office Humor

We encounter many amusing situations on a daily basis. Today's story (which is based on common experiences around our office) is simply for your entertainment:

As part of her typical Friday callback routine, the South King County Scheduler patiently lists out the volunteer drivers assigned to a client heading to multiple appointments the following week.  She says, “On Monday, Larry will take you to your appointment, and Jerry will take you home.  On Wednesday, Terry will take you to your appointment, and Barry will take you home.  On Friday, Harry will take you to your appointment, and Mary will take you home.”

The client pauses for a moment and remarks, “Oh, great!  I’m so excited to meet Carrie!”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Volunteer Driver Receives Distinguished Honor

The Volunteer Transportation program is incredibly proud of volunteer driver Syd Darlington, who was recently recognized by Governor Jay Inslee at the 2015 Washington State Governor’s Awards for Volunteerism.  Syd and 38 other awardees were selected out of Washington State’s 1.82 million volunteers and honored at a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia.   Recipients ranged in age from 15 to 82.  Syd was humbled and inspired by the event.

Syd developed a strong ethic of service after arriving to the United States from the UK in 1981, but he became fully immersed in volunteer work after retiring in late 2007. He admits that he “doesn't like to be still for long” and enjoys keeping busy by serving his community. His volunteer résumé is quite long and includes a wide variety of roles.  In addition to driving seniors with Volunteer Transportation, Syd serves the Bellevue Police Department as a Crossroads Community Police Station attendant and general “Jack of all trades” (from record digitizing to event photography); teaches at Unity of Bellevue; and advises and judges with DECA.  Syd is clearly a people-person and reports that, like most volunteers, he understands the “warm glow” one receives from helping others.   He finds all of his volunteer work to be very rewarding and knows that it keeps his mind active and alert.

Volunteer driving is very near and dear to Syd.  When he first signed-up to drive for Volunteer Transportation back in 2008, he admits that he had no idea of how important and needed the service is for its clients.   He explains how he has learned the many layers of volunteer driving.  He says, “We are more than just drivers.   We are caregivers and companions.  We serve as social bridges for people who might not otherwise have outside contact with others.  Going to appointments is never a fun thing in the first place, and we bring light to the situation.”  In addition, Syd feels privileged to have given rides to many inspiring seniors who are great role models of aging gracefully.  He values these relationships.

Congratulations, Syd!  You remind us of what volunteering is all about.

Friday, March 27, 2015

In the News!

KING 5, a local NBC affiliate, aired a story about our Volunteer Transportation program and its need for volunteer drivers earlier this week. Through poignant footage of Claire Anderson (client) and Judy Goett (volunteer driver), the report demonstrates how King County residents can "give a lift and lift spirits at the same time!"

Here it is:

We are grateful for this coverage and hopeful that it will connect us with lots of people feeling inspired and ready to hit the roads with Volunteer Transportation!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Volunteer Driving-- The Best Way to Spend Your Retirement Years!

Our volunteer drivers represent a variety of backgrounds and have a diverse array of experiences.  They come from all walks of life and span seven decades of the age spectrum.  But there’s no denying that a large number of them are retired.

This became particularly clear at a recent volunteer driver gathering in Kirkland. As each volunteer introduced himself/herself, many stated something along the lines of the following: “I became a volunteer driver because I wanted something meaningful to do that would get me out of the house and keep me busy during retirement.”  They also remarked, “I really enjoy it because the people are so grateful for my help and make me feel like I’m making a difference.”

These volunteers are on to something.  As noted in this article in USA Today,

"Volunteering is not only good for others, it's good for you.

Research shows that people who volunteer report lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations and lower levels of stress than those who don't volunteer, says Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that administers Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and other programs. ‘The health benefits are huge.’"

The story also details the significant positive impact these retirees collectively make in our communities: "More than 20 million older adults — more than a quarter of those 55 and older — contributed on average more than 3 billion hours of service in their communities per year from 2011 to 2013. The value of this service is estimated at $75 billion."

We are grateful to have so many retirees as volunteer drivers for our program.  It is an obvious win-win situation for all of us!

Of course, if you know a retiree looking for a fun and worthwhile way to make the best of their newfound freedom [or anyone else with weekday availability], send them our way!  Have them contact Hilary at (206)748-7588 or to start their journey as a volunteer driver.  They can “pay it forward” while finding passion and purpose in their golden years.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Volunteer in the Limelight: Kathe Kern

One of our incredible volunteer drivers, Kathe Kern, is featured in Senior Services' latest e-newsletter.  You can find it here, and we've also pasted it below for your enjoyment.  We are so glad that Kathe (and all 5 of her boys) have been a part of the Volunteer Transportation program for so long!   

Volunteer driver Kathe Kern and client Tamaya Nomi.

Kathe Kern has been on the road for 25 years, and counting.

Senior Services volunteer driver Kathe Kern has always believed in giving her time to help others. With a degree in zoology and chemistry she began her first volunteer gig—reading and recording textbooks for blind students. But when her first son came along, Kathe found she could no longer make recordings. Babies are loud! 

Fortunately, Kathe came across a Senior Services ad in the newspaper for volunteer drivers to take seniors to medical appointments. The gig seemed perfect as it allowed her to put her little boy in the backseat and take him along. Twenty-five years and four more boys later, Kathe is still driving. All five kids—one or two at a time—accompanied her as she went from her Mercer Island home all over the east side and Seattle with elders needing rides to the doctor.

Kathe says her boys learned valuable lessons from the experience. “I drove a woman who had cancer,” she remembers, “and she yelled at me. The boys’ eyes got as big as the moon, since they knew no one was allowed to talk to mom that way. Later I explained that the lady was very sick and maybe dying, and this is one of those times you have to be understanding.”

Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation program provides door-to-door rides to medical appointments and back for seniors who are not able to drive themselves or manage public transportation. Last year, 800 caring and dedicated people—many of them seniors themselves—volunteered to help elders get to their doctors. 

According to Kathe, the rewards of driving are great. “It has been as good for me as for the people I drove,” she says. “They’re good company and we tell each other our stories.” The clients have been appreciative and always loved seeing Kathe’s kids.

Though the boys are grown now, Kathe still drives several times a week. “It gets me out of the house!” 



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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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