Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Client profile: Wasyl Fedorowicz

Kindness and Resilience amidst Adversity:
The Story of Wasyl Fedorowicz
Wasyl rides the Hyde Shuttles three times per week and is a 
regular client of Volunteer Transportation.

Wasyl  Fedorowicz is a survivor.  Like many Ukrainians, his life was molded by dark events of Eastern Europe’s long history of conflict.  There are memories so upsetting he buried them deep into his subconscious and experiences so traumatizing they caused him years of PTSD-induced nightmares.   His story, like that of his homeland, contains underlying currents of cruelty, suffering and injustice.  But it is also marked by great kindness.  Interwoven through Wasyl’s tales of fear, powerlessness and hardship is the strong theme of compassion.

War shaped much of Wasyl’s journey.  He was born in 1923 in a small Ukrainian village under Polish control.  At a young age, he was recruited to serve as a courier to an underground organization against the Soviet Union-- delivering messages in the cold and darkness of stormy nights.  World War II broke out when he was 16.  The Germans soon invaded his country and sent him to a forced labor camp in Germany at age 19.  He never saw his parents alive again.   He spent the next 7 years of his life, even after the end of WWII in 1945, in German camps.  He moved to the United States as a displaced person in 1949 and wasn’t able to visit his village again until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Wasyl vividly recalls times when brave, kind people saved his life.  Once, his boss’ daughter intervened as angry members of Hitler’s loyal SS Corps were ready to shoot him.  One grabbed Wasyl’s hat and pulled it down so forcefully that it covered his face.  With gentle grace, the young German woman reminded the belligerent militants that Wasyl and his friends were hard workers contributing to the war effort. They left him alone.

Another time, an English officer interviewed Wasyl to assign him his respective ethnic camp.  Wasyl proudly announced that he was Ukrainian.  The officer would not have it.  He asserted, “You are NOT Ukrainian; you are Polish!”  It wasn’t until later that Wasyl realized the official’s intent: While the Ukrainian camp would have placed him in unendurable conditions, placement in a Polish camp gave him opportunity.  He remembers saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the caring officer.

Wasyl’s stories of more recent years have a very different tone, but they continue to include examples of selfless acts in the midst of challenging circumstances.  He provided many years of tender care for his wife, Helen, as she adjusted to life after a knee replacement, a broken hip and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.   But it soon became too much for him to manage.  They eventually relocated to Seattle to be near family, and Helen moved to a skilled nursing facility.

Wasyl now relies on Senior Services’ Transportation Program to visit his wife as frequently as he can.  Volunteer Transportation drivers pick him up, take him to the nursing home, and allow him to spend quality time with Helen.  He is very grateful for the service.  He recently reported with great excitement that he had witnessed Helen taking small, precarious steps with the assistance of a walker and the help of the facility’s medical staff.  It meant a lot for him to witness her progress.  His wife isn’t the same person that she used to be, but he is still there for her—unfaltering in his love and devotion.

He also uses the Hyde Shuttles to get to the Central Area Senior Center three times per week.  The socialization and community found at the Senior Center are important for Wasyl’s overall wellbeing.

The volunteer drivers who take Wasyl to his meaningful visits to his wife, the Hyde Shuttle drivers who provide him with transportation to invigorating activities and his friends at the Senior Center may not ever learn of the difficult past he has overcome.   Yet, they offer him support and companionship without expecting anything in return.  Wasyl’s life is full of many contrasting stories, juxtaposing dehumanizing instances of oppression with poignant moments of humanity.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Scheduler Ride Along

Donald Benedict, Lead Transportation Coordinator, has worked for Volunteer Transportation for 16 years (and Senior Services for 24 years).  On a normal weekday, he can be found answering phone lines, contacting volunteers, taking down ride requests, and completing all of the necessary work to ensure that King County seniors get the valuable transportation they need.  He recently had the rare opportunity, however, to escape from the confines of the office and tag along with Lynne McCaslin (volunteer driver) and Janine Parks (regular Volunteer Transportation client) as they completed the typical ride routine.  




Donald enjoyed his Ride Along experience.   He loved how naturally Lynne and Janine interacted with one another and gained even more respect for our volunteer drivers!  It was a great reminder of why he and the other Transportation Coordinators work so hard to make rides happen-- week after week, year after year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Everything!

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
~H. Jackson Brown Jr.

 Our office has been flooded with lovely cards, boxes of chocolates, and handwritten notes from clients and volunteers this holiday season.  These thoughtful gestures remind us that the messages of love, happiness, compassion, and peace of this special time of year are ones that our volunteers work hard to instill in our programs every day.  No carefully wrapped packages are necessary; they bring joy into the lives of seniors by giving the gift of their time.  
Once again, 85-year-old Meyer Caplan sent us creative drawings and humorous quips of holiday cheer!

Whatever your faith background, we wish you happy holidays from all of us at Senior Services’ Transportation Program! The holiday season is made much brighter by your resounding spirit of generosity. 
 
Friday, December 19, 2014

Honoring a Legacy of Volunteer Driving

Deeon has provided countless rides over the years.

The year is 1984.  A gallon of gas costs $1.10; movie tickets are $2.50; and the average price of a new home is $86,000.  Ghostbusters is the popular film of the day, and Miami Vice catches national interest as a captivating new crime drama series.  Concurrently, Deeon Kuspert, a Renton resident, discovers the Volunteer Transportation as a meaningful to way to spend her time now that all of her children are in school. 

Deeon receives her prestigious Presidential Lifetime Achievement
Award from Paula Houston (Senior Services' CEO) and Cindy
 Zwart (Transportation Program Director).
Flash forward to 2014.  Gas, movie tickets, and homes cost a great deal more; many films and television programs have come and gone; and Deeon’s children are all grown up.  But Deeon is still serving as volunteer driver!

Deeon was honored for her 30 years of service at the Transportation Program’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon in December 2014.  She was presented with an impressive Lifetime Achievement Award signed by President Barack Obama, as well as a lovely car charm made by Tiffany & Co., in recognition of her sustained commitment to civic participation.  She also received a standing ovation by all those in attendance, many of whom were so moved by the tribute that they had tears in their eyes.
The audience rises to its feet to applaud Deeon's years of service.

Deeon is humble when asked about her volunteer experience.  She reports that she was very surprised by the accolades presented to her in December, and that volunteering is just a way of life for her.   She says, “I enjoy meeting all of the people I drive.  They so appreciate the program.”  She also gives credit to the Volunteer Transportation staff for making her volunteer work so effortless.  She adds, “It’s such a well-run program, and it gets better all the time!” 

A lot may have changed since 1984, but Deeon’s profound and positive impact remains the same.  Service is clearly an integral of her identity, and she continues to touch lives with her kindness and generosity.  Our community is a more humane and better place to live because of volunteers like Deeon.

Friday, December 12, 2014

2014 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

 
Our 2014 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon took place at the Golf Club at Newcastle on December 9.  As usual, it was a lovely gathering of our wonderful volunteer drivers, filled to the brim with positive energy and gratitude.
 
Perhaps the best overview of the event can be found in the speech given by Cindy Zwart, Transportation Program Director.  Her words reflect the true meaning of the festive occasion:
 

“...All of us in the Transportation Program look forward to this luncheon because it gives us the opportunity to personally thank our volunteer drivers for everything you’ve done the past year and also to recognize those drivers celebrating milestone anniversaries with the program.  I know that most of you don’t expect any thanks for what you do, but it’s important to Senior Services to be able to let you know how much you mean to our program’s success. 
People in the community are amazed not only when I tell them how many drivers we have volunteering for our program – we have 826 drivers on the books including volunteer drivers with our community partners – but people are also amazed how long our volunteers stay with the program.  Today we will be recognizing drivers celebrating five years with our program, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, and one driver who has been driving with us for thirty years!”
Although not all of them were able to attend the luncheon, we'd like to congratulate the following volunteer drivers for reaching milestone anniversaries in 2014:
  • 5-year drivers: Nancy Gerard, Bob Roby, Sean Ward, Thomas Morio, Calvin Wang, Steve DeHaven, Donald Campbell, Fred Johnson, Meg Swimelar, Michael Schmidt, James Owen, Scott Eliason, Doris Jones, Rick Rice, Joyce Rice, Sara Croft, Claudia Sewell, Ronald Vandenberg, Carol Godding, Mary Ann Quinn, Susan Heffernan, Michael Lofstedt, Grant Colyer, Monique Ming Laven, Phil Coulson
  • 10-year drivers: Diana Kordus, Margie Pasero, Richard Nikolaisen, Lynne McCaslin, Push Patel, Mary Paulson, Shaila Gadre, Joe Merrill, Ruth Mynar, Maria Joao Galvao, John Davis
  • Douglas Matthews
  • 15-year drivers: Tom Brown, Patsy Giboney, Bob Knudson
  • 20-year driver: Dwight Binge
  • 25-year drivers: Al Hillstrom, Kathe Kern, Jack Langlais
  • 30-year driver: Deeon Kuspert (MORE ABOUT DEEON WILL BE FEATURED IN AN UPCOMING BLOG POST.  Be on the lookout for it next week!)

5-year drivers as they receive their Frango Chocolates
10-year drivers as they receive their certificates and Godiva chocolates*
15-year driver and "Shining Star" recipient, Patsy Giboney, with Senior Services' CEO, Paula Houston*
25-year drivers as they listen to Cindy's stories about their years of service
and receive engraved Barone Crystal gifts*


The sun even came out to honor our volunteers and provide them with this spectacular view of Seattle off in the distance!
 
Cindy concluded her remarks with the following statement, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said:  'Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.'

And so all of us at Senior Services are grateful to be here today to thank you for your service to our agency, our clients and our community, for your grace and love in action.”

Let us remember these inspiring words throughout the year and keep them with us until next year's luncheon!

*Photo credit: Bryan Ilyankoff


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meyer Caplan, the 85-year-old Volunteer Transportation client who often sends us festive holiday greetings (as detailed on the Halloween blog entry found here) sent us incredible Thanksgiving posters.  We'd like to share them with you here and extend his lovely (and funny) messages to all of you:
The cheery poster-sized cards are displayed prominently on our office filing cabinet.
The typed poem reads,
"May you have hope in the joy of Thanksgiving
A Heart filled with peace and contentment
Love that will fill empty places
And happiness that makes your heart smile."
The bear holds a heart that says, "Thanks for the rides!"

Humor can be found in both posters.  In the page with the male pilgrim, the turkey declares,
"Wouldn't you rather have roast beef this year?"  In the page with female pilgrim, Tweety Bird
recites the following joke: "What key has legs and can open doors? ... A turkey!"

We hope that you enjoy Meyer's artwork as much as we do.
 
On this special day that reminds us of the many blessings in our lives, we GIVE THANKS for all of the amazing volunteers, staff, and clients who make Senior Services Transportation Program so wonderful!
 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Client Profile: Audrey L.

Volunteer Transportation Helps Senior Adjust and Adapt to New Life

When Audrey lived in Taipei, Taiwan for a year, she was a very particular shopper.  Storekeepers listened patiently as she used great detail to describe the precise item she sought-- stipulating its size, colors, shape, and design.  But Audrey really wasn’t picky, and her true purpose was not to purchase something specific.  Audrey shopped to learn.   She used these daily excursions to practice her Chinese vocabulary and become more fully immersed in the culture that surrounded her.

Taiwan is just one of the diverse locations that Audrey has called home.   She has also lived in New York, Germany, Japan, and Kansas.  She has a strong sense of adventure; she loves learning; and she has a deep appreciation for the arts.  She lives fully, no matter where she resides.

Audrey moved to Redmond three years ago.  She sorted through the countless things that filled the home she’d shared with her late husband, donated her beloved piano to a local nonprofit organization, packed up all of the meaningful artwork she’d collected over the years, and left Kansas behind.  She was eager to see her grandchildren more often; she was ready to open up a new chapter of her life in Western Washington.  
Audrey’s Redmond home is full of art—including paintings,
carvings, sculptures, and figurines—reflecting her many
experiences.  “Everything has a story,” she states.
“These are my life, my memories.” 

Audrey attempted to adjust and adapt to her new environment—as she had always done.  But it wasn’t so easy this time.  The process of downsizing and relocating after the loss of her husband was much more difficult than she’d imagined.  She explains, “It was very, very traumatic.  Frankly, I just wasn’t myself for the first two years.”  

Audrey discovered Volunteer Transportation as she transitioned to her new life in Redmond.  She was afraid to drive longer distances, and her dentist’s office informed her that the program’s volunteer drivers could take her to her appointments in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland.  She was delighted. 

The volunteer drivers have been very welcoming and kind to Audrey.  She enjoys their conversations during rides, and she doesn’t know what she’d do without the program.  She makes an effort to tell each and every volunteer how much she appreciates their help. Audrey says, “I tell them how important their volunteer work is—that it’s a wonderful contribution to our community.”  She adds, “It’s a great service, and it’s much, much needed.” 

Audrey, who is now 82, credits Volunteer Transportation for helping her to feel more at home in the Pacific Northwest.  Starting anew was not easy, and it took some time to get her bearings straight.  But Audrey is her determined, creative, and curious self once again.

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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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