Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Helpfulness: A Word Reflection

Helpful is a word we hear over and over again in our office.  Seniors often call in and say, “My volunteer driver yesterday was so helpful.”  Our volunteers tell us that they find meaning and purpose in being helpful to seniors in need of assistance; “I like to be helpful,” they say.  It’s a word used so frequently that it has almost become ubiquitous. 

A quick Google search of the term produces the following:

help·ful
ˈhelpfəl/
adjective
1.      giving or ready to give help."people are friendly and helpful"
synonyms:
obliging, eager to please, kind, accommodating, supportive, cooperative; sympathetic, boosterish, neighborly, charitable

This Google definition provides us with other terms to describe our “helpful” volunteers: obliging, eager to please, kindaccommodatingsupportivecooperativesympatheticboosterishneighborly, and charitable.  All have slightly different connotations, yet they all are fitting descriptions of our volunteers.

No matter which adjective we use (no thesaurus necessary), it’s clear is that our volunteer drivers are amazing and much-appreciated!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Saying Thanks

This card arrived to our office earlier this week.
Clients of our transportation programs express gratitude in many ways.  Although we don’t expect or solicit appreciation, hearing “thank you” reminds our employees and volunteers of the value of our work.   

Our staff recently received a thank you note (that included a token of appreciation) from Gail, a regular client of Volunteer Transportation.  We can’t share the treats that she provided with everyone, but we’d love to share her message with all of you: 
It reads:

Dear Donald, Amy, Kailan & all others in the office whose names I don’t know & who also deserve thanks!!
Thank you all so much for helping me these last few years—you’ve been kind & helpful & patient – and you have all worked hard to find me many, many rides!
Here’s a mid-year treat I hope you all can share—
Cheers & gratitude—
Gail

In the spirit of gratitude, we’d like to publicly thank Gail for her thoughtful surprise! 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Program Poetry

It's time for some creativity!  Here are some reflective haikus about the typical Volunteer Transportation experience for your enjoyment:

Haiku 1
Gently and swiftly,
The car moves. The people chat.
The ride brings relief.


Haiku 2
Riding together,
They talk. They laugh. They relax.
Nerves wane as wheels spin.


Who knew it would be so difficult to sum up the essence of our program in 5-7-5 syllables?!!

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.

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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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