Friday, July 26, 2013

Smart Thinking: Volunteer Ingenuity

Calvin Wang is a standout, multi-faceted volunteer.
Calvin Wang has been a Volunteer Transportation driver since January 2009, and he never heads out for a ride without a Sudoku book in his front pocket.  Calvin loves the challenge of this 9 x 9 number puzzle, and he finds it to be a great way to pass the time as he waits for VT clients in doctor’s offices, dental clinics, or hospitals.  He explains, “It teaches you how to use your thinking cap.  It’s all about logic.”

Logic is one of Calvin’s greatest strengths.  He worked as an engineer for many years, which helped him to develop solid problem-solving and analytical skills.  He adds, “Perhaps my training as an engineer also fostered a tendency to be more observant.”  These traits are essential as Calvin efficiently solves his Sudoku number puzzles, but they’ve also added a new dimension of helpfulness to his interactions with others.  Calvin is evidence of the fact that a volunteer driver always provides much more than just a ride.

Once, he drove a woman who was very unsteady with her cane.  He noticed that she wobbled and looked uneasy as she moved. Ever the problem-solver, he introduced the concept of the quad cane to her.  A quad cane, he explained, is a four-footed cane that offers four points of contact with the ground instead of just one.  It provides much more support and stability than traditional canes.  He proposed to the client that she might benefit from such a device.  Although Calvin just planted the seed that such a switch could be advantageous, he was happy to see the same frail client using a four-pronged cane during his next ride with her.  She had taken his advice and reported a newfound sense of steadiness and ease as she walked.

On several other occasions, Calvin observed a problem with clients using walkers.  As they attempted to go through doorways (especially those in their homes), they had to awkwardly turn their walkers sideways because they were just a tad bit too wide to fit.  This made simple tasks, like getting to the bathroom, challenging.  He soon discovered that the front wheels on walkers are traditionally on the apparatus’s outside poles.  They can be easily removed with a push/pull button and switched to the inside poles, taking away about 1.5 inches from the total width.  With this quick fix, clients are able to go in and out of doorways without any trouble.  Calvin believes he has completed this outside-to-inside wheel swap on about four walkers, and each person has been very grateful for his assistance.
Calvin is humble about the impact he has had as a volunteer driver.  He says, “I just do whatever I can to help out.”  He is empathetic and caring as he works with older adults, yet he uses his active mind and critical eye in his volunteer work as well.  Calvin enjoys working with the numbers, lines, and grids that fill the pages of his Sudoku books, but his interactions with Volunteer Transportation clients provide for a more dynamic, personable, meaningful, and memorable way to channel his well-tuned thinking cap.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Client Profile: Laurabelle M.

Laurabelle will be 98-years-old this October.  She walks without a cane or walker and lives in a condo in downtown Bellevue.   She said her doctor would not be surprised if she made it past 100 years old!  She says it has been an interesting life.  Her relatives came to the United States before we started keeping immigration records and fought in both the American Revolution and the Civil War.  Laurabelle moved here in 1945 because her husband grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and after WWII wanted to finish his education at the UW.  Laurabelle worked for the telephone company for 42 years.  Back then it was called Pacific Tel and Tel; it is now Century Link.

Her husband passed in 1994, and Laurabelle has been on her own ever since.  Like many other older adults, she takes pleasure in living independently and not burdening family members for transportation.  She loves to play bridge and until recently lunched with all of her old friends from the telephone company.  She drove herself up until a few years ago, but decided it was time to give it up when she lost her depth perception in one eye.  A long time friend and former volunteer driver told her about Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation Program. 

We have now been assisting Laurabelle to her medical appointments for the last three years and she says, “This program has saved my life.” Laurabelle credits her ability to stay in her own home to Volunteer Transportation.  “If it was not for this program and seeing my doctors, I would probably be in a retirement center.  I could not survive in my own home without these volunteers.”  She says she will continue to utilize our program even after she turns 100. 
Friday, July 12, 2013

Why Drive?

We recently posed the following question to our Des Moines Hyde Shuttle volunteer drivers: What is the best thing about driving the Hyde Shuttle?   
Here are their responses:
  • Alan M. –  “Driving is a great thing!  Some of the most fun is just taking a client to visit a friend or go to the waterfront for the afternoon.”
  • Tom M. –  "I so enjoy interacting with the seniors and their past experiences.  They are so thankful and show much appreciation for the Senior Services being provided to them.”
  • Scott E. –  “I enjoy the feeling of be able to help those who need help. I enjoy the driving and connecting with our riders.”
  • Tom E. –  
    • “I enjoy getting to know some of the elderly and hearing their stories of life.”
    • “I feel more appreciation for the little we do to make their lives easier than I ever did in all my years of work.”
  • John M. –  “It makes me feel like I am making a difference and it gives me something to do with my time.”
  • Jerry M. –
    • “Driving for me is an obligation of my civic duty to help others who may not be able to help themselves.”
    • “I enjoy the time, but I feel a strong responsibility as an able bodied adult to volunteer as long as I can.”
  • Bonnie T. -  
    • “I like hearing stories the seniors share from their past."
    • "I like that our riders are so polite and appreciative of our service.”
Although each volunteer has a different take on his/her role, they all demonstrate the same passion and compassion that make our program so special.   It is clear that we provide more than just transportation—for both our clients and volunteers.
Friday, July 5, 2013

Practicing Patience

Volunteer drivers often report a long laundry list of what they have gained from serving with our program: companionship, humility, a deeper understanding of the aging process, a newfound knowledge of local medical facilities, hope, joy, and PATIENCE!  Patience is a quality that is not innate in most of us.  As Eknath Easwarn writes, “Patience can't be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle.”

Volunteer driving is great “conditioning” for our patience muscles.   Our clients move slowly—sometimes painstakingly slowly.  We often have to repeat ourselves multiple times, as clients may not hear or understand what we’ve already said.  Appointments can take longer than expected.  We often feel like we’re waiting and waiting and waiting.

But, as we learn to slow things down a few notches, we transform from impatient, irritated, over-stimulated modern adults to icons of mindfulness, serenity, and fortitude.  Fulton Sheen reminds us that “patience is power.”

So, as we inch along and feel as though the world is on “pause” (or “repeat”) with the senior clients of our program, let us remember that this is not a burden.  Rather, it is a gift!  Just like successful athletes, we are training for the important challenges of life.

About Me

My photo
“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!
Powered by Blogger.