Friday, May 31, 2013

Volunteer Story: Getting Hitched

Dennis B., a volunteer driver, shared the following story with us:
“Yesterday, I took Bill H. to Magnolia.  He lived up there for years, and as it was a nice day, after the appointment we went to the bluff and looked out at the water for a while.  He told me about his father who was a ferry boat captain in the old days.  As we were getting ready to go, he told me that he had to get back to see his fiancée!  Bill is 91-years-old and uses a walker and is not what I would call really mobile...and here he is getting married!! He said that she and he were sweethearts 72 years ago.  He has been through 2 wives, and she 1 or 2 husbands. They now live 2 doors apart at The Merrill Gardens and are planning on getting married.  I guess it’s not over until they nail down the lid, huh?”
Friday, May 24, 2013

Volunteer Transportation Client Spotlight: Helen H.

ONE OF A KIND: Volunteer Transportation Client Brings Life to Rides

It’s easy to locate 92-year-old Helen H’s home amongst the sea of doors in her apartment complex.   There is a sign taped to the front of it that reads, “I’ve gone to look for myself.  If I should return before I get back, keep me here!”   Thus, visitors already have smiles on their faces before they’ve even greeted her.

And then Helen ensures that those smiles do not disappear!   She is full of entertaining stories and unique perspectives.  She has a great sense of humor, an active mind, and personality galore!  It is clear that, like her quirky door display, Helen stands out.  She says, “I’ve lived a hell of a life!  We all have.  You don’t get to be over 90-years-old without having a variety of experiences.” 
Although Helen stresses the importance of being able to laugh at life, she is able to reflect on other more serious topics as well.  She loves history (and is a member of a Historical Society) and has traveled a great deal.  She is curious and knowledgeable.  

These wide-ranging qualities make spending time with Helen a rare treat, and many Volunteer Transportation drivers have had the privilege of getting to know her.  She registered for the program in 2001 and has been a regular client ever since.   She has monthly appointments to ophthalmologists for treatment of macular degeneration and has met many “neat” volunteers throughout the years.

She says, “Every single one of them is interesting—if you want to sit and listen and ask.”  She knows many details of their life histories, and she has a great deal of respect for these drivers.  She jokes, “They all deserve stars in their crowns for putting up with cranky old ladies and men!”  On a more serious note, she adds, “They give their time and make an effort.  Frankly, I can’t push it hard enough.”

Helen reminds us of a very important life lesson: NEVER STOP LAUGHING OR LEARNING.  We are honored to have “found” her as a client in Volunteer Transportation.
Friday, May 17, 2013

All in the "Family"

We here at the Transportation Program are a part of the big, happy extended family of Senior Services-- the most comprehensive non-profit agency serving older adults and their loved ones in Washington State.  Together with our fellow Senior Services "brothers and sisters," we work to "promote the emotional, social, and physical well-being of older adults."  This includes many worthwhile services that inform, protect, support, and advocate; promote health and strength; enable seniors to remain independent and safe at home; and promote relationships and meaningful engagement in the community.  Collectively, we aspire to empower older people from diverse backgrounds to choose and develop joyful, healthful, and purposeful lives.

I'd like to dedicate this post to helping you get better acquainted with a few of our Senior Services "siblings": Meals on Wheels, Water Conservation, and Minor Home Repair.  Each of these programs is equally valuable in ensuring the independence and safety of the seniors we serve.

Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious and delicious frozen meals to thousands of homes throughout King County each week.  The following video (produced by the City of Auburn) portrays the heart and soul of what it's all about:

For more information about Meals on Wheels in King County, you can call the program at (206)448-5767.

Senior Services also strives to make lives easier through its Housing and Home Repair programs.  Leonard Luna, Minor Home Repair Field and Operations Coordinator, created the following PowerPoint presentations* to better illustrate the services offered within this Senior Services department (*minor formatting challenges):


You can call  206-448-5751 to find out more about the inner-workings of Water Conservation or Minor Home Repair.

It's very reassuring to know that we have so many great partners in providing older adults in King County with the resources they need!  We will continue to profile other Senior Services "relatives" as we journey onward in our quest to better support our beloved community.
Thursday, May 9, 2013

Public Recognition

On May 7, the Mayor and City Council of Federal Way devoted a portion of their meeting to honoring volunteers from two Senior Services’ programs: Meals on Wheels and Volunteer Transportation.  Cindy Zwart, Director of the Transportation Program, highlighted the significant impact both VT drivers and MOW volunteers have on the Federal Way community.  She reported that there are currently 29 active Federal Way volunteer drivers, who transported 67 area seniors to various appointments in 2012. Another 18 volunteers supported Meals on Wheels in various ways (calling and computer recording in the office, packing, and driving/delivering the meals) to deliver 16,795 nutritious meals to 87 Federal Way seniors.   Mayor Priest was quick to point out, though, that these numbers mean nothing compared to the life-changing benefits experienced by clients of these programs on an individual level; there is no way to quantify the value of such assistance.

Cindy echoed these sentiments in her remarks.  She shared, "I have been working at Senior Services for over 22 years now, but I started out as a volunteer driver, and I know first-hand the dramatic impact our volunteers have on the lives of seniors in King County who would be unable to get to essential medical appointments or eat nutrition meals without the personalized service provided by our volunteers...  None of our volunteers expect any thanks or recognition for what they do, but I think it is important to recognize the invaluable contributions they make to their community, to recognize the profound and positive impact they have on all the seniors whose lives they touch during the course of their volunteer duties..."

 Thus, the “Volunteer Spotlight” event allowed the City of Federal Way to publicly express its gratitude for the unique and  important work of our volunteers.   It was a humbling and uplifting occasion.
Meals on Wheels /Volunteer Transportation volunteers and staff pose with the Federal Way Mayor and City Council.
Friday, May 3, 2013

Client Profile: Claire Anderson

The following story comes to us from the May 2013 edition of AgeWise King County:

Making a Difference: Claire Anderson
By Mary Pat O'Leary, RN and BSN planner at Aging and Disability Services

Claire Anderson lost her vision in a matter of seconds due to an optic stroke.
Sightless in Seattle: Adventures with My Guide
Dog is available through Seattle Public Library.
For more information, click here.
Before I met her in person, friends told me about Claire Anderson. I was impressed hearing their stories about how Claire encouraged them to start writing their life stories.My friend told me that Claire is a remarkable person who inspires everyone she meets, and that her wit and intelligence bring a sense of calm and sensible perspective to participants of the writing class.

An optic stroke left Claire without sight when she was 64 years old. She did not allow her "legally blind" status to impact her active lifestyle.

Claire goes to the Monroe Correctional Complex every month to participate in the prison group's philosophical round table. She leads a memoir class at the Ballard Northwest Senior Center. She is involved in other activities as well, including public speaking, teaching, and even sewing.

Claire's yellow Labrador retriever DaVida is her constant companion. DaVida stars on the cover of Claire's book about vision loss titled Sightless in Seattle.

It takes courage and willingness to overcome personal challenges and barriers, and to live your life making a difference in the lives of others. Claire makes that difference.

For more information about this remarkable woman, visit Claire's website at

For more information about coping with vision loss, read Access to Technology for Vision Loss and Insight: A Low Vision Expo 2013 in this issue.

You may recognize Claire from the King County Mobility Coalition video highlighting our Volunteer Transportation program.  Here it is for your enjoyment:

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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