Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gratitude for a Generous Gift

Senior Services staff members, Adam and Christina, accept
two checks from Seattle Police Department representatives.
We just wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Seattle Police Department for their unexpected philanthropic donation.  The Employees' Charity Fund bestowed us with a generous gift for the Transportation Program (as well as another contribution to Meals on Wheels).

Thank you for recognizing the value of our services and supporting us in such a significant way!  You have helped us go the "extra mile" in serving King County seniors.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Volunteer Transportation Client Spotlight: Betty L.

Betty often takes a travel wheelchair with her to
Betty L. is a 90-year-old SeaTac resident who has a lot of things to worry about.  She has a bad hip and back, arthritis, poor vision, tooth pain, and heart problems.  On top of it all, she used to have the added strain of finding transportation to see the dentists, doctors, specialists, and surgeons overseeing her medical care… But not anymore!  Betty discovered Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation program in 2005, and she has been a regular client ever since.

For Betty, Volunteer Transportation has transformed the process of getting to and from medical appointments from times of much anxiety and concern to pleasant, interactive experiences.  She says, “The program means everything to me!  It takes away all the stress I used to have with finding transportation.” 

Betty also adds, “The volunteers are all so nice!”  Some volunteer drivers have taken her all the way to Burien or Bellevue for appointments with specialists, and she describes how several volunteers were “incredibly helpful” after she’d had a cornea transplant.  Conversations with her drivers have spanned many topics, ranging from household chores and yard work to themes of a more personal nature.  She says, “One man is a singer, and we talked a lot about music.  Then, there was even one woman who had graduated from the same school as me!”  She reports that her drivers always find ways to make her feel comfortable and relaxed.

Betty admits that she is certainly not worry-free, but Volunteer Transportation has made her life considerably easier.  She exclaims, “I don’t know what I’d do without it!”  We are glad to have tackled her transportation troubles.
Thursday, January 17, 2013

Welcome, Jacob

Over the last month, you may have heard a new voice over the Volunteer Transportation phone lines.  It’s now time to make some introductions.  Jacob Sperati joined the Volunteer Transportation crew as the South King County Scheduler on Dec 10, 2012.  A Delaware native and St. Olaf College graduate, he has called Washington home since 2006 and brings with him a wealth of experience working with seniors, volunteers, and transportation programs.  In previous positions, Jacob coordinated volunteer drivers for Chicken Soup Brigade and trained and scheduled the bus drivers for Holden Village in Chelan, Washington. 

Most recently, Jacob spent 2012 working as a driver for three Seattle area retirement homes-- giving him firsthand experience with the highs and lows of providing the extra helping hand for seniors while negotiating the frustrating Seattle traffic.   He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Senior Services and have a deeper impact on the greater King County community.

When not working on connecting local seniors with vital transportation, Jacob rings hand bells with the Emerald City Ringers, and is an avid hiker-- having walked 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is preparing to climb Mt. Rainier in August. 
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Scheduling: Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave!

Each week, seniors contentedly head off for medical appointments throughout King County, with friendly volunteers amiably facilitating their journeys.  As simplistic and straightforward as these arrangements may seem, it is important to note that they do not come about haphazardly; rather, they are the direct result of the careful attention to detail, analytical problem solving, and skillful coordination of our Transportation Coordinators.  These essential members of our team are so adept at the driver/client matching process that they make it look easy… But don’t let them fool you!  The behind-the-scenes work that makes each ride possible is complicated, and it can appear daunting to those of us on the outside.  Eager minds have most assuredly pondered: “How does it all come together?”, and, therefore, I’d like to dedicate this post to the complexities of ride coordination.

The "puzzle" starts to come together with detailed notes about
driver availabilities in the upcoming week.
Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut formulas, systems, or programs for determining who will drive whom as the weekly ride requests accumulate.  Our Transportation Coordinators rely on their brainpower and critical thinking skills to take many factors into account as they pair clients with drivers, craftily putting together the “jigsaw puzzle” of ride assignments.   They must look at the locations of the clients, volunteers, and appointments; honor the preferences, availabilities, and abilities of our volunteers; recognize the limitations of our clients; prioritize rides for clients who need our services the most; and ensure that as many people as possible can receive our services.  
Rides are highlighted once driving assignments are confirmed.

As one might imagine, this is a multi-step process.  Drivers are contacted; notes are taken; schedules (sorted by geographic area) are printed and “penciled in” with tentative driver assignments; and all matches are confirmed by the end of the week. As ride requests come in after the Wednesday deadline, the Coordinators do their best to assist additional clients, revisiting their original charts and schedules.  Throughout it all, they calmly overcome any obstacles that get in their way (e.g.: canceled or changed appointments, reliable volunteers becoming sick or going on vacation, multiple appointments scheduled for the same day/time, etc.) -- efficiently working with all of the variables.  This course of action is repeated week after week.

The steadfast work of the Transportation Coordinators is commendable, and their results are admirable.  However, in order to make their jobs easier, we’d all love additional volunteers to fill the gaps of unmet transportation needs.  The equation is simple: current volunteers + more volunteers = more options for our hard-working schedulers and less clients turned away from the program.  If you have the “drive” to provide meaningful service and enjoy driving, this is the volunteer job for you!  Please contact Hilary at hilaryc@seniorservices.org or (206)748-7588 for more information.  You may be the missing piece of our giant, intricate “puzzle!”
Friday, January 11, 2013

Promoting our Program

The following minute-long clip features Pam Brown, who has been a Volunteer Transportation driver for over 16 years.  Once again, the message is clear: Serving as a volunteer driver is a rewarding, simple, and enjoyable way to help others in need and have a positive impact on your community.  ENJOY!!
Monday, January 7, 2013

And Now.... A Word from Our Sponsors!

20% Off Weekend Getaways for Seniors
Amtrak Pacific Northwest, which has kindly supported our program in various capacities throughout the past several years, has informed us that seniors 62+ can receive 25% off any tickets purchased between January 5 and April 27, 2013.  Find out more here: http://www.amtrak.com/senior-discounts-west-coast-travel-on-amtrak-cascades-train?WT.mc_t=AARP_Cascades25__EXT&WT.mc_n=CascadesSeniors25Page&WT.mc_r=365 .

Happy travels!

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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