Wednesday, November 21, 2012


At a recent meeting, a Hyde Shuttle Volunteer Driver made the following statement: "Driving the shuttle provides the best appreciation I've ever gotten after 35 years of working for wages.  The thanks the clients give me is way better pay than working for money!"

On that note, let us express our gratitude for all of our amazing volunteers. May you all realize the incredible value of the gift of your time. Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Volunteer Driving: A Family Affair

The driving team strikes a pose.
Volunteer Sara C. knows the powerful impact that helping others can have on a person’s life, and she recognizes that an ethic of service is developed at a very young age.  She remembers volunteering with her mother in nursing homes during her early childhood—at a time when very few other experiences were implanted in her memory.  And now, as she has a family of her own, she hopes to instill this same value of kindness in her own children.

Sara actively includes her two little ones (ages four and almost-two) in the rides that she provides through Volunteer Transportation.  They may not be old enough to contribute to the tasks at hand, but she knows that they are gaining something in the process.  Sara says, “I really hope they learn how important volunteering is.  I want them to realize that, throughout their lifetime, they’ll meet many people who have different needs.  Since we have the ability to help, it’s important for us to do so.”

This lesson is one that Sara takes to heart as well.  Because she isn’t able to assist her own grandmother, who is 93-years-old and far away in Saint Louis, she values the opportunity to help other seniors on King County’s Eastside.  This comes full circle with the clients she drives.  Many passengers have expressed that they love spending time with Sara and her children because they have very limited opportunities to see their own grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

She remembers one particular passenger, whom she describes as “the sweetest lady-- but very lonely,” who instantly developed a bond with her son.  Sara explains, “Her face literally lit up when she saw him.”  Sara also recalls a time when her daughter was so taken by a particular passenger that she continued to ask for her by name-- long after the ride was over.  These intergenerational connections are very special.

Sara admits, though, that including young children in serving as a Volunteer Driver can be a bit intimidating.  “At first, it was daunting,” Sara says.  “I wondered: What will happen if the kids start screaming?  Will they be bored?  Will they get used to it?”  Her worries were soon lifted, and she discovered that all it requires is a bit of patience and preparation.  She now packs snacks, toys, and games that help make medical waiting rooms more entertaining, and she has also learned how to keep an arm free for the client while keeping her little ones in a front pack, stroller, or at hand-holding distance.

Volunteering is clearly a win-win-win situation for Sara, her family, and the clients of Volunteer Transportation.  On an individual level, she speaks about gaining humility, lots of incredible knowledge about the area’s history (via stories that passengers share with her), and a better understanding/appreciation of aging.  Her son and daughter acquire firsthand experience with helping others, and clients of the program find it enriching to spend time with amusing children who brighten up their days.  Collectively, they make friends of all ages.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Volunteer Transportation Client Spotlight: Mary Durante

When 80-year-old Mary Durante walks past her car parked in her garage, she pats it and tells it,  “You’re a good car.  It’s not your fault.”  She knows that this vehicle will continue to stay in the same spot, as she is no longer able to take it on any outings or errands.

For Mary, aging has been a process of letting go.  “I used to drive everywhere.  I used to be able to walk all over,” she says as she shares openly about losing her independence and adjusting to the limitations of her older self.

The process of “letting go” has also included a role reversal for Mary.  She has had to make the difficult transition from being the “helper” to the “helped.”  Mary once filled all her time with helping others.  In addition to raising five children, she worked as both a paramedic and high school special education teacher.  She was dedicated to volunteer work for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and office within her church.  She also served as the caretaker for many friends and family members who’d fallen ill, attending to them in their most vulnerable moments. 

Yet, Mary now spends a lot of her week receiving help.  She has learned to accept support from a variety of people-- including her volunteer drivers from Volunteer Transportation.  She has become quite the unofficial spokesperson for the program and uses any opportunity that she can to tell others about it.  “Without this service, I’d truly be up a creek without a paddle.  It’s a Godsend,” she says.

Mary also enjoys the connections that she has made with her volunteer drivers.  She explains, “They’re like old friends.  If I don’t see a driver for a while, I wonder if something had happened to him or her.  I was concerned about one of the drivers recently, and I found out that he had been sick.  I was happy to hear when he was well again.”  She also adds that she doesn’t get out of the house much and enjoys the opportunity to take off for new scenery.

Growing older is never an easy process, but Mary has attempted to make the best of it by keeping a positive attitude.  She uses resources that are available to assist her and is grateful that Volunteer Transportation can lighten her load as she continues on her journey.

**Postscript: An article featuring Mary Durante and Ron Vandenberg (last week's "Volunteer in the Limelight") can be found here in the October edition of Northwest Primetime.:

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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