Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Volunteer in the Limelight: Ron Vandenberg

Ron Vandenberg jokingly says that serving as a Volunteer Transportation driver “keeps me out of trouble!”  He retired 15 years ago after a lengthy career in construction and likes to keep busy.  The rides that he has given for the program have ranged from taking a client to an appointment that was just 1.5 blocks away from his home to driving over 100 miles in a trip that spanned multiple cities.

Passengers in Ron’s car may feel that its scent is reminiscent of a bakery.  That’s because Ron estimates that he delivers approximately 700 to 800 loaves of bread per month as he volunteers for various homeless outreach programs, shelters, or the St. Vincent de Paul. 

Yet, sandwiches and loaves of bread are not very interactive, and Ron greatly values the connections he has made with clients of the Volunteer Transportation program.  He loves “talking to them and learning from them.”  He is willing to drive to any location and doesn’t mind taking on rides for appointments that will last a few hours. 

Ron is uncertain what he’d be doing if he weren’t driving with Volunteer Transportation each week (“probably wasting time on the computer!” he exclaims), but he knows that it is time well spent.  I’m certain that all of his Federal Way passengers would agree!
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hyde Shuttle Client Spotlight: Jerry Carriveau

Jerry Carriveau reports that technology is in his DNA.  He was very involved with amateur radio for many years, and he now slides his fingers through iPhone apps at a speed that would put most teenagers to shame.  Jerry is always eager to learn, and it is clear that his endless curiosity has kept him current with society’s technological advances as times have changed.

Jerry has been blind essentially since birth, yet this has never limited his rich potential.  After having studied economics and some law, he received his MA in Public Administration at the University of Washington.  His lifelong learning has also allowed him to master many tasks, such as fixing faucets and gadgets, without having any vision to assist him.

Each week, Jerry takes the Hyde Shuttle to the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center to participate in two separate groups: the Cracker Barrel Group (which he describes as a “loosey goosey, informal group to talk about whatever comes up”) and the Current Events Group (for which participants bring in articles to share and discuss with one another).  He also stays for the Senior Center’s lunch program and is so popular that it is often difficult to find a seat near him.  He is constantly surrounded by folks eager to converse with him, as he usually has many interesting things to say.

Jerry is not the type of person who would ever become disengaged from the world.  In fact, it is his high level of engagement that defines who Jerry is.  He has a strong thirst for knowledge, and he is also very politically involved.

Without transportation, Jerry would not be able to participate so fully in his community.  He labels the Hyde Shuttle as very “useful and reliable.”  By taking him to activities, it empowers him to keep his active mind at work and share his unique perspectives with others.  Jerry is much, much more than just a passenger; he is an inspiration to us all.

Hyde Shuttles rely on important volunteer drivers to offer this valuable service to our community.  Drivers do not need a special license and receive free training.  If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact Hilary ( or 206-748-7588).  Let’s drive the distance to ensure that local elderly residents can journey onward into unlimited possibilities!
Friday, October 19, 2012

Farewell to Shelani

Shelani is off for new adventures.

Many volunteers and clients have gotten to know Shelani as the “friendly voice on the other side of the phone line” as she has tirelessly coordinated Volunteer Transportation rides for South King County.  Sadly, today (10/19/2012) marks her last day in this role.  Her life path has "steered" her (pun intended!) away from Seattle and on to new adventures elsewhere.

Preparing to begin the next chapter of her life afforded Shelani the opportunity to reflect about her experiences as a Program Coordinator for the past two years.  Here is what she had to say:

What have you enjoyed most about your role at Volunteer Transportation?
I have really enjoyed feeling like the job I do makes a difference in the lives of others. I really enjoy getting to talk to clients on Friday and telling them who their driver is. They are so grateful and happy for our service, and that is a good feeling. I have also enjoyed getting to know my volunteers. I have been fortunate to work with wonderful colleagues who taught me a lot, and I will miss them dearly.

What has been a challenge for you?
The challenge was having to tell client’s that sometimes we don’t have enough volunteers to do the rides. That’s the hardest part of this job.

What has been most memorable for you?
My most memorable moments have been talking to various clients about their lives and learning about their past. It’s so fascinating to hear the life stories of people.

Is there any message you’d like to leave for the program’s staff, clients, or volunteers?
I want to thank Cindy [Senior Services' Transportation Director] and all my colleagues, as well as the wonderful volunteers I got to work with. The connections I made with these individuals taught me so much, and I feel very lucky to have worked with such caring individuals. I will take the lessons I learned with me wherever I go.

We will miss Shelani very much, but we wish her the best of luck with all of her future endeavors.  Here’s hoping that her life journey is filled with meaningful "rides!"
Monday, October 15, 2012

Volunteer Reflection: French Pastries and Friendship

By Joyce Foy, Kirkland Driver

Taking time to appreciate the moment.
Volunteer driving for Senior Services has been quite an experience, and one ride in particular will stay with me forever.

I picked Frances up in Kirkland and drove her to her scheduled doctor appointment.  On the way home she asked if I would mind if we swung by a new French bakery in town.

It was one of “those days” for me – my to-do list was a mile long and my first thought was, “No way, I just don’t have the time.”  But then I decided, “Well, it’s only a couple of miles out of the way, how long could it take?”

When we arrived at the bakery I parked the car and helped her into the store with her walker.  Instead of getting something to go, as I had assumed she would, she ordered a French pastry and coffee and offered to buy me whatever I wanted.

Uh oh, this wasn’t going to be a real quick stop.  I began to mentally reschedule my plans for the day.

The bakery was packed and all seats were taken.  Even though Frances was using a walker, no one volunteered a seat.  Wondering how she could eat balancing French pastry, coffee and a walker, we decided to go outside where there were some chairs set up on the sidewalk.  We scooted our chairs up to a retaining wall which became our makeshift table.

Frances was amazing.  She was so appreciative of everything.  It was a sunny but cold day.  Frances saw the sunshine.  She remarked on the birds eating nearby and the flowers that were so pretty, the delicious pastry, and the great coffee.  She never mentioned the goose bumps we were both experiencing from the chilly temperature or the fact that no one offered her a seat inside.

We sat and talked and enjoyed each others’ company.  My to-do list wouldn’t get done, but it didn’t seem to matter much now.  Frances was so happy just to be out and doing something new, and I was feeling quite blessed to be in the company of someone so positive.

At last, it was time to go.  She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t thank you enough.  This meant the world to me.  Tomorrow I will turn 92, and this is my birthday celebration.”

My to-do list lost all its importance and I hugged my new friend.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Volunteer in the Limelight: Kiri Igloi

Kiri Igloi is an energetic woman.  Active and sharp, she gardens, participates in several reading clubs, and spends time with her daughters.  But she really gets her kicks by driving seniors to medical appointments with the Volunteer Transportation Program.

A retired flight attendant, Kiri says she missed the “get-up-and-go” of flying around the country when she stopped working five years ago.  Suddenly, there didn’t seem to be much possibility for “new” in her day-to-day life.  Then she found Volunteer Transportation.  

“Volunteer Transportation takes me new places every week,” Kiri says.  “I love driving seniors to new clinics and hospitals, exploring the different neighborhoods around Seattle and the South End.  I’ll do it until I become a customer.”

Kiri is a much-needed member of the program’s South King County volunteer force.  Along with her husband, Karl, she consistently provides rides every Monday and is flexible in being sent wherever she’s needed.  She could be labeled as the Highline area’s “Monday go-to gal.”

South King County Program Coordinator, Shelani Vanniasinkam, describes Kiri as very “friendly and warm.”  She explains, “I get lots of requests to ride with her because clients love Kiri!” 

It is this adventurous outlook, boundless energy, and memorable warmth that make Kiri such an inspirational volunteer.  We know that Kiri’s pathway in life will never be dull, and we are grateful that she’s able to share her gifts as she is “on the go” as a volunteer driver.
Thursday, October 4, 2012

Volunteer in the Limelight: Jeanne Luchtel

 Jeanne was shopping for fabric in Bellevue when she noticed a flyer announcing the need for volunteer drivers.  She decided that since she couldn’t take her own mother to the doctor, this opportunity would be the perfect fit.  Sixteen years later, Jeanne’s still hooked.  Once per week, she picks up seniors at their homes, waits with them at their appointments, and then takes them home again.

Yet, there’s something a little different about Jeanne as a volunteer driver.  One might first notice her “luvmydg” license plate, or perhaps one might discover a puppy in the back seat.  That is because, in addition to driving Eastside seniors to their medical appointments, Jeanne trains guide dogs.  She has found that Senior Services’ Transportation Program allows her to combine two of her passions: training guide dogs and helping older adults.  There is often a puppy in the car as she drives clients to their appointments.

“The people I meet are so grateful for a ride, and I’ve never had a senior say no to a dog on a ride,” Jeanne says.  “You really feel like you’re making a difference right then, not sometime down the line.  You can see it on their faces.”

Outside of these volunteer roles, Jeanne is a busy woman.  She has teenage grandkids, loves to sew, and spends quite a bit of her time traveling. With so many interests and activities, it would be easy for Jeanne to become “dog-tired.”  However, she keeps up with it all with steadfast dedication and vigor.  It is clear that Jeanne does not “lead a dog’s life!”

About Me

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“Behind the Wheel” offers stories, reflections, news and updates about Sound Generations’ (formerly 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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