Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Everything!

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
~H. Jackson Brown Jr.

 Our office has been flooded with lovely cards, boxes of chocolates, and handwritten notes from clients and volunteers this holiday season.  These thoughtful gestures remind us that the messages of love, happiness, compassion, and peace of this special time of year are ones that our volunteers work hard to instill in our programs every day.  No carefully wrapped packages are necessary; they bring joy into the lives of seniors by giving the gift of their time.  
Once again, 85-year-old Meyer Caplan sent us creative drawings and humorous quips of holiday cheer!

Whatever your faith background, we wish you happy holidays from all of us at Senior Services’ Transportation Program! The holiday season is made much brighter by your resounding spirit of generosity. 
 
Friday, December 19, 2014

Honoring a Legacy of Volunteer Driving

Deeon has provided countless rides over the years.

The year is 1984.  A gallon of gas costs $1.10; movie tickets are $2.50; and the average price of a new home is $86,000.  Ghostbusters is the popular film of the day, and Miami Vice catches national interest as a captivating new crime drama series.  Concurrently, Deeon Kuspert, a Renton resident, discovers the Volunteer Transportation as a meaningful to way to spend her time now that all of her children are in school. 

Deeon receives her prestigious Presidential Lifetime Achievement
Award from Paula Houston (Senior Services' CEO) and Cindy
 Zwart (Transportation Program Director).
Flash forward to 2014.  Gas, movie tickets, and homes cost a great deal more; many films and television programs have come and gone; and Deeon’s children are all grown up.  But Deeon is still serving as volunteer driver!

Deeon was honored for her 30 years of service at the Transportation Program’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon in December 2014.  She was presented with an impressive Lifetime Achievement Award signed by President Barack Obama, as well as a lovely car charm made by Tiffany & Co., in recognition of her sustained commitment to civic participation.  She also received a standing ovation by all those in attendance, many of whom were so moved by the tribute that they had tears in their eyes.
The audience rises to its feet to applaud Deeon's years of service.

Deeon is humble when asked about her volunteer experience.  She reports that she was very surprised by the accolades presented to her in December, and that volunteering is just a way of life for her.   She says, “I enjoy meeting all of the people I drive.  They so appreciate the program.”  She also gives credit to the Volunteer Transportation staff for making her volunteer work so effortless.  She adds, “It’s such a well-run program, and it gets better all the time!” 

A lot may have changed since 1984, but Deeon’s profound and positive impact remains the same.  Service is clearly an integral of her identity, and she continues to touch lives with her kindness and generosity.  Our community is a more humane and better place to live because of volunteers like Deeon.

Friday, December 12, 2014

2014 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

 
Our 2014 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon took place at the Golf Club at Newcastle on December 9.  As usual, it was a lovely gathering of our wonderful volunteer drivers, filled to the brim with positive energy and gratitude.
 
Perhaps the best overview of the event can be found in the speech given by Cindy Zwart, Transportation Program Director.  Her words reflect the true meaning of the festive occasion:
 

“...All of us in the Transportation Program look forward to this luncheon because it gives us the opportunity to personally thank our volunteer drivers for everything you’ve done the past year and also to recognize those drivers celebrating milestone anniversaries with the program.  I know that most of you don’t expect any thanks for what you do, but it’s important to Senior Services to be able to let you know how much you mean to our program’s success. 
People in the community are amazed not only when I tell them how many drivers we have volunteering for our program – we have 826 drivers on the books including volunteer drivers with our community partners – but people are also amazed how long our volunteers stay with the program.  Today we will be recognizing drivers celebrating five years with our program, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, and one driver who has been driving with us for thirty years!”
Although not all of them were able to attend the luncheon, we'd like to congratulate the following volunteer drivers for reaching milestone anniversaries in 2014:
  • 5-year drivers: Nancy Gerard, Bob Roby, Sean Ward, Thomas Morio, Calvin Wang, Steve DeHaven, Donald Campbell, Fred Johnson, Meg Swimelar, Michael Schmidt, James Owen, Scott Eliason, Doris Jones, Rick Rice, Joyce Rice, Sara Croft, Claudia Sewell, Ronald Vandenberg, Carol Godding, Mary Ann Quinn, Susan Heffernan, Michael Lofstedt, Grant Colyer, Monique Ming Laven, Phil Coulson
  • 10-year drivers: Diana Kordus, Margie Pasero, Richard Nikolaisen, Lynne McCaslin, Push Patel, Mary Paulson, Shaila Gadre, Joe Merrill, Ruth Mynar, Maria Joao Galvao, John Davis
  • Douglas Matthews
  • 15-year drivers: Tom Brown, Patsy Giboney, Bob Knudson
  • 20-year driver: Dwight Binge
  • 25-year drivers: Al Hillstrom, Kathe Kern, Jack Langlais
  • 30-year driver: Deeon Kuspert (MORE ABOUT DEEON WILL BE FEATURED IN AN UPCOMING BLOG POST.  Be on the lookout for it next week!)

5-year drivers as they receive their Frango Chocolates
10-year drivers as they receive their certificates and Godiva chocolates*
15-year driver and "Shining Star" recipient, Patsy Giboney, with Senior Services' CEO, Paula Houston*
25-year drivers as they listen to Cindy's stories about their years of service
and receive engraved Barone Crystal gifts*


The sun even came out to honor our volunteers and provide them with this spectacular view of Seattle off in the distance!
 
Cindy concluded her remarks with the following statement, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said:  'Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.'

And so all of us at Senior Services are grateful to be here today to thank you for your service to our agency, our clients and our community, for your grace and love in action.”

Let us remember these inspiring words throughout the year and keep them with us until next year's luncheon!

*Photo credit: Bryan Ilyankoff


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meyer Caplan, the 85-year-old Volunteer Transportation client who often sends us festive holiday greetings (as detailed on the Halloween blog entry found here) sent us incredible Thanksgiving posters.  We'd like to share them with you here and extend his lovely (and funny) messages to all of you:
The cheery poster-sized cards are displayed prominently on our office filing cabinet.
The typed poem reads,
"May you have hope in the joy of Thanksgiving
A Heart filled with peace and contentment
Love that will fill empty places
And happiness that makes your heart smile."
The bear holds a heart that says, "Thanks for the rides!"

Humor can be found in both posters.  In the page with the male pilgrim, the turkey declares,
"Wouldn't you rather have roast beef this year?"  In the page with female pilgrim, Tweety Bird
recites the following joke: "What key has legs and can open doors? ... A turkey!"

We hope that you enjoy Meyer's artwork as much as we do.
 
On this special day that reminds us of the many blessings in our lives, we GIVE THANKS for all of the amazing volunteers, staff, and clients who make Senior Services Transportation Program so wonderful!
 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Client Profile: Audrey L.

Volunteer Transportation Helps Senior Adjust and Adapt to New Life

When Audrey lived in Taipei, Taiwan for a year, she was a very particular shopper.  Storekeepers listened patiently as she used great detail to describe the precise item she sought-- stipulating its size, colors, shape, and design.  But Audrey really wasn’t picky, and her true purpose was not to purchase something specific.  Audrey shopped to learn.   She used these daily excursions to practice her Chinese vocabulary and become more fully immersed in the culture that surrounded her.

Taiwan is just one of the diverse locations that Audrey has called home.   She has also lived in New York, Germany, Japan, and Kansas.  She has a strong sense of adventure; she loves learning; and she has a deep appreciation for the arts.  She lives fully, no matter where she resides.

Audrey moved to Redmond three years ago.  She sorted through the countless things that filled the home she’d shared with her late husband, donated her beloved piano to a local nonprofit organization, packed up all of the meaningful artwork she’d collected over the years, and left Kansas behind.  She was eager to see her grandchildren more often; she was ready to open up a new chapter of her life in Western Washington.  
Audrey’s Redmond home is full of art—including paintings,
carvings, sculptures, and figurines—reflecting her many
experiences.  “Everything has a story,” she states.
“These are my life, my memories.” 

Audrey attempted to adjust and adapt to her new environment—as she had always done.  But it wasn’t so easy this time.  The process of downsizing and relocating after the loss of her husband was much more difficult than she’d imagined.  She explains, “It was very, very traumatic.  Frankly, I just wasn’t myself for the first two years.”  

Audrey discovered Volunteer Transportation as she transitioned to her new life in Redmond.  She was afraid to drive longer distances, and her dentist’s office informed her that the program’s volunteer drivers could take her to her appointments in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland.  She was delighted. 

The volunteer drivers have been very welcoming and kind to Audrey.  She enjoys their conversations during rides, and she doesn’t know what she’d do without the program.  She makes an effort to tell each and every volunteer how much she appreciates their help. Audrey says, “I tell them how important their volunteer work is—that it’s a wonderful contribution to our community.”  She adds, “It’s a great service, and it’s much, much needed.” 

Audrey, who is now 82, credits Volunteer Transportation for helping her to feel more at home in the Pacific Northwest.  Starting anew was not easy, and it took some time to get her bearings straight.  But Audrey is her determined, creative, and curious self once again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Tribute


We are honored to have many veterans (and family members of veterans) involved in our programs-- both as clients and as volunteers. On this Veterans Day, we stop to reflect on the purpose of this federal holiday, as described by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954: “to solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom.”

KCTS 9, our local PBS affiliate, has produced many informative and compelling Veterans Day pieces.  Their work includes many stories about local veterans, many of which mirror those shared with us by people involved in Senior Services' Transportation Program.   We’d like to share them with you via this link.  Please check them out.

We salute all veterans (and those who sacrificed along with them) for their honorable service and invaluable contributions to our country!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Greetings

It’s Halloween!  In honor of this special occasion, we’d like to share a festive display made for us by a Volunteer Transportation client:
 
It's a full-sized poster featuring all of the Halloween standbys, as well as Tweety Bird and Daffy Duck.  Amazing!

The text reads: Dear Cindy & staff, We really appreciate the rides you have provided for us throughout the year.  The drivers and your staff are so courtous [sic] and caring.  Hope the poster isn’t too scary.”  --The Caplan’s
 
The artist of this creative masterpiece is 85-year-old Meyer Caplan, who regularly receives rides from our volunteer drivers with his wife, Doris.  It must be noted that Meyer used no stencils or tracing paper to create these whimsical cartoon drawings; they were all carefully drawn by hand and patiently colored with impeccable precision.  Meyer says, “When you retire and you don’t have anything to do, you go nuts!  This has become my hobby.  I’ve been doing it for quite a few years now.”  He sends out similar posters to family and friends for all holidays and birthdays; he even reports that we can expect to receive another unique artistic message for Thanksgiving.  We can’t wait!
 
Meyer and Doris are very grateful for Volunteer Transportation.  He adds, “The drivers are so caring and just wonderful people.”  We are happy to display his token of appreciation in our office.


Our staff is lookin' good!

On that note, we wish you HAPPY HALLOWEEN from all of the “jolly jack-o-lanterns” at Senior Services’ Transportation Program (including “Chief Pumpkin,” Cindy; Lead Scheduler, Donald; Eastside and West Seattle Scheduler, Amy; and South King County Scheduler, Kailan)!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pained but Positive

Life is challenging for Barbara.  At 86, her body isn’t what it used to be.  She's had both knees replaced; she has a herniated disc in her back; and she suffers from extreme sciatic nerve pain.  She often feels overwhelmed and out of sorts.  “Sometimes, it’s like we’re drowning in everything.  All we want to do is just lie down,” she says as she talks about how she and her 88-year-old husband, Charles, spend their time. 

But the two of them still manage to get out and about.  Barbara and Charles both have frequent medical appointments, and they rely on Volunteer Transportation drivers to get them to clinics and home safely again.

Barbara didn’t feel up for an interview at this time, but she was very clear over the phone that she had a message to share with all those involved with the Volunteer Transportation program: “It has been tough to lose our independence, but you have made it easier.  It is an awesome program, and I think everyone who is a part of it is awesome.  I really do.  I can’t imagine life without it.” 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Accepting Help

When seniors first sign up for Volunteer Transportation, they frequently express a sense of relief to have discovered the program.  They are eager to receive rides from our volunteer drivers and thankful to have the service available to them.   Their spirits are high. 

But this is not always the case. Often times, there’s a sense of reluctance as seniors prepare to become Volunteer Transportation clients.  They are hesitant, even resistant, to register for the program.  Family members sometimes clue us in to their states of mind, “My dad really did not want me to contact you guys!  He is just so stubborn.”

It’s more than just stubbornness that prevents clients from embracing our transportation services with open arms.  Accepting help is hard.  Our society generally frowns upon those who can’t manage things on their own; independence is a fierce American value.

Anne Togher of Philips Lifeline also reminds us of the generational factors at play.  She writes, “Most seniors today are part of the generation called the Traditionalists, or the Silent Generation,
and the way they grew up is considerably different than the generations following them and the generations serving them. They are the generation who experienced some part of the Great Depression, they worked hard, stayed in their jobs for decades, and saved their money. Their values include sacrifice, loyalty and contributing to the collective good. Asking for help has not been part of their vocabulary and accepting it is even harder.”

It is important for us to acknowledge that, especially initially, clients of our program may come to us from this place of ambivalence.  It may not have been easy for them to reach out to us at Volunteer Transportation, but we hope that they will be forever grateful that they did. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Volunteer Transportation in AgeWise King County

 
The October edition of AgeWise King County features a thoughtful reflection about Volunteer Transportation.  You may recognize the three clients it describes from their more detailed profiles found on this blog.  Check it out by clicking here!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Client Praise

Our quote of the week comes from Rose S., an 87-year-old client from Bellevue who has used Volunteer Transportation for 11 years:

“You have a wonderful group of people. I'm so happy I found you. I can't begin to tell you how much I respect and appreciate you. Your program is a wonderful, wonderful support for people like me… I am eternally grateful. To find people like you is reassuring… I tell everyone that you are my guardian angels."

Our "angelic" volunteer drivers are happy to be a source of support for seniors like Rose.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Volunteer in the Limelight: Shari Hanbey

Volunteer Driver Preserves Art of Letter Writing

Volunteer Transportation drivers often employ a myriad of technological tools to keep themselves occupied as they patiently wait for seniors during medical appointments.  Many use ipads , Kindles, smart phones, or laptops to pass the time in waiting rooms throughout King County.  But Shari Hanbey, who has been a volunteer driver for six years, doesn’t require any modern devices for downtime during the rides she provides for local seniors.  All she needs is a pen and paper.  

Shari is devoted to the art of letter writing, and that is an understatement.   She typically sends out over 20-25 letters per month to people in places throughout the USA and world.  Her husband’s role in the military meant that they lived in 16+ locations (both domestic and overseas) during his 27 years of active duty, and Shari keeps all friendships alive with handwritten messages.  Each one averages to be about two pages of updates and news—both good and bad.   She admits that her letters aren’t works of art, but they are full of love.

Shari values connections and knows that getting a letter in the mail is more special than receiving an email, a text message, or a Facebook post.  She notes all anniversaries and birthdays on her perpetual calendar and makes sure to compose a given message about 6 days ahead of time.  Her dedication to letter writing was so strong that she was even asked to send all correspondences for her women’s group.   As if this weren’t enough to keep her busy, she also sends out thank you notes for all good deeds and has 170 families on her Christmas card list.  She works hard to stay in touch with people who’ve been a part of her life. 

Shari has received support in her letter writing efforts.  One friend, a self-proclaimed garage sale addict, recently spent an entire year buying any letterhead or stationery she could find.  She gave Shari a huge collection of it for Christmas, and they joked about how long it would take her to go through it all.  Shari reports that it is almost gone.  

Whether she is kindly escorting a senior into a clinic or carefully choosing the right words to wish a friend a happy birthday, Shari is thoughtful in all that she does.  Serving as a volunteer driver allows her to combine several important acts: serving others, building relationships, and letting people know how much she cares.  Shari Hanbey does all three as she volunteers— both in person and on paper.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Client Profile: Marie Trotignon

Volunteer Transportation Helps Writer Fight Vision Loss
 
Marie displays her three published books:
Dancing in the Rain: A Collection of Raindrops
and Rainbows, And He Shall Be Called Nicholas, and
The Dance of the Blue Crab.
In Dancing in the Rain: A Collection of Raindrops and Rainbows, author Marie Trotignon reflects on the endurance and resilience of the human spirit.  Marie uses each unique vignette to poignantly demonstrate how we can cope with life’s storms by learning to dance in the rain.

Dancing in the Rain is one of Marie’s three published books, but the 84-year-old has been writing stories ever since she learned to write.  Writing is a constant in her life; it is her talent, her solace, her joy.  Her love for words runs deep. 

Marie is also a passionate reader.  She has held many different jobs over the years, but her favorite was when she was an elementary school librarian.  She knew every book in the school and could make recommendations for children of all ages.

Yet, in one of life’s unfair ironies, Marie developed macular degeneration several years ago.  At first, it allowed her to continue on with her normal routines and activities.  But it progressed and soon caused words to disappear or turn into mumbo jumbo on pages.  Writing became a challenge, and reading was nearly impossible.  She struggled to make sense of words.

Losing her vision has been difficult hurdle for Marie to get over, but she is determined.  She says, “Books have always been my love, and it’s hard not to read a book.  Books are sitting around here waiting to be read.  I’d like to find something to help me. ” Marie’s treatment plan includes getting shots in her eyes every two weeks.  This process is far from enjoyable, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to hold on to as much sight as she can. 

Just like the characters of her book, Marie looks on the bright side of this unpleasant process.   One of the silver linings of the injection ordeal is meeting the Volunteer Transportation drivers who take her to/from her eye appointments.   She says, “I just can’t praise the program enough.  The volunteers are such nice people.  They are friendly, competent, and qualified.  I’ve enjoyed meeting each and every one of them.”

As a story enthusiast, Marie also values learning about the lives of the volunteer drivers as they chat during the rides.   She reports, “They are comfortable conversations.  It doesn’t feel awkward with any of them.”   Each person has a story to share.

Marie still writes daily and attends a writing feedback group once or twice per week.  Like all authors, she has many ideas about her next projects, but she never knows where they’ll end up.  She explains, “You sit down with something in mind, but then it writes itself.  Your characters come to life.  They lead, and you have to follow them. ”

Marie’s life has unfolded in a similarly unpredictable fashion.  There have been bumps and storms.  But Marie is still dancing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Client Profile: Phyllis Peterson

Volunteer Transportation Provides Independence for Issaquah Senior
 
87-year-old Phyllis Peterson has lived in Issaquah for over 25 years and has watched the city grow abundantly within that time.  When Phyllis first moved to Issaquah’s Providence Point, she was much younger and healthier.  Her only appointments were routine checkups and dental cleanings twice a year.  On those rare occasions when she had appointments, Phyllis did not worry about anyone else’s schedule because she was able to drive herself.   Phyllis drove herself to and from her medical appointments for the next 15 years.

That all changed the day she suffered from a stroke.  Her calendar soon filled with appointments that she couldn’t reach.  Her children were willing to assist her as much as they could, but she knew she could not expect her kids to take care of her for the rest of her life.   She states, “I lost my
independence the day I sold my car.”  She was determined to find a way to stay independent.

“It’s funny what can come up in random conversations,” she says.  Phyllis remembers talking to her neighbor at Providence Point over 10 years ago about a transportation program she used to help her with her medical appointments.  Her neighbor explained how volunteers used their own cars and would pick her up at home, wait for her to finish with her appointment, and bring her home. 

Phyllis thought it over and realized this program could be the solution to her problem.  She could still get to all her appointments without asking her family to take time away from work.  She could keep her independence just by asking for a little assistance.  All Phyllis had to do was call Senior Services.          

For the past 10 years, Phyllis has become well versed in asking for transportation assistance.  “I know the rules of the program, and they are very simple to follow.”  She now recommends Volunteer Transportation to others who are going through the same situation as she did 10 years ago.  Phyllis states, “I know what it’s like to worry.  With Volunteer Transportation, all the drivers have been on time, kind, and courteous.  I don’t know what I would do without them.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cinematic Reflection

The Group Health Transportation Assistance Program, one of our valued partners, created a video that highlights many key elements of Volunteer Transportation.   When viewing it, we are reminded of: how much volunteer drivers love their unique role, the huge difference rides to doctor’s offices make in the lives of those who need them, the important social contact that takes place during rides, and the heartfelt appreciation clients express for the service. 

We’d like to share it with you here:


 
Perhaps someone out there in cyberspace will watch this video and feel inspired to serve as a volunteer driver right away!  Both Group Health and Volunteer Transportation are always in need of new volunteer volunteers.  Online applications for Volunteer Transportation can be found here.
 
Thursday, July 3, 2014

Client Profile: Mary Shadrick

Volunteer Transportation Client Tackles Hard Issues

Mary Shadrick, a Volunteer Transportation client for 21 years, never does anything halfheartedly.  Whether recreationally, politically, or professionally, Mary is never on the sidelines.  

Recently, the 86-year-old accumulated more activity points than anyone else in her Renton assisted living community.  With her regular participation in activities like Bid Whist, Bingo, Bunko, Rummikub, and exercise classes, Mary earned an impressive $30,000 of “money.”  This allowed her to purchase two watches and two necklaces at the facility’s auction.  These rewards illustrate her go-getter attitude and willingness to try new things. 

Active involvement is nothing new for Mary.  She was a dedicated participant at the Southeast Seattle Senior Center and became a lifetime member of the Central Area Senior Center after volunteering at its front desk for seven years.   The Bid Whist group that she started at the Central Area Senior Center continues to thrive.  She worked as a microbiology transcriber for the California Department of Health Services at UC Berkeley and served as a clerk for Judge W.J. Wilkins, renowned for his involvement in convicting leading Nazis in the Nuremberg trials.  

Even in difficult circumstances, Mary doesn’t hold back.  “I’ve always had to tackle the hard issues,” she says.  She became involved in local politics under the guidance of Sam J. Smith, a prominent black politician and civil rights activist.  She was the first and only African American in her role as clerk for Judge Wilkins, as well as the only African American in the microbiology department at Berkeley.   She speaks openly of the tokenism she encountered in these times and the prejudice she has experienced in more recent years.  “People don’t change overnight,” she explains.

But Mary doesn’t let these incidents get her down. She believes that she gets her strength from her mother, who was a strong role model for her seven children.  Mary also acknowledges the important role that her daughter plays in her life.   Her daughter gives her lots of important information to help her remain healthy, active, and well-informed.

Volunteer Transportation has been yet another source of support for Mary.   She hasn’t let challenges like giving up her car or moving to a new area prevent her from seeing her long-term Seattle doctors.  She often spreads the word about the program to other seniors who may need it and tells them, “It’s very reliable.  I’ve had good luck with the volunteer drivers; they are nice people.”   She can speak with conviction from her 21 years’ worth of experiences with the program.

It is clear that Mary Shadrick is fully empowered, ready to conquer any obstacle that gets in her way.

**Like Mary, you can jump right in to new and worthwhile activity: become a volunteer driver today! Drivers are needed throughout King County. Contact Hilary at hilaryc@seniorservices.org or (206)748-7588 to find out more.  
Friday, June 27, 2014

Positive Feedback

Today's pick-me-up comes from a letter we received from a long-term Volunteer Transportation client.  It reads:

I am extremely grateful for this very efficient and important service.  It has helped keep me healthy!  Staying independent is my main goal today & your service is very important in reaching that goal.  You're the best!  Safe and friendly drivers do a great job!


Safety, independence, health, friendliness, and client satisfaction-- she certainly summarizes all that we aspire to provide with our program!
Friday, June 6, 2014

Hyde Shuttle Passenger Profile: the Yamasaki's

Hyde Shuttle Helps Seniors Make the Most of Life
 
Frank and Sadie Yamasaki are regular passengers on the Hyde Shuttle, but, once upon a time, Frank was an art student who had grown tired of the standard, cookie cutter art subjects often selected by professors.   “An artist always looks for something interesting—something out of the ordinary,” he says.   Concurrently, Sadie was a young paralegal who’d been persuaded by her office co-workers to serve as a model for a Seattle art class.  “They told me they’d take me out for drinks afterward,” she explains.  She walked into Frank’s classroom and broke the mold of the typical art model—catching Frank’s eye.   Frank and Sadie have been married for 62 years.

“Interesting” is certainly a term that would describe Frank and Sadie’s many years together.   In their younger days, they filled their time with entertaining, ballroom dancing, involvement with the Buddhist community and family activities.  Frank even had the opportunity to serve as the Art Director of an Academy Award-winning documentary.   They shared a love of food, family, music, art, people and life.
The wheelchair lift makes it easy for Frank to take the shuttle,and Sid
 (volunteer driver) ensures that he is safe and steady as he boards.

But things have changed as they’ve grown older.  Frank is now 90, and Sadie is 83.  Six years ago, Sadie suffered a heart attack and fractured her hip shortly thereafter.  She wasn’t far into recovery when Frank had a stroke, significantly impacting his mobility and short-term memory.  Sadie was unable to lift his heavy walker in and out of her car, but she did not want to become like other senior couples who spend their days at home in the company of the television.  She didn’t want their lives to grow dull.

It was then that Frank and Sadie became committed riders of the Hyde Shuttle program.  They consistently take the shuttle to their Enhance Fitness class at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center three days per week.   Sadie notes that the class helps with mobility and balance, but, more importantly, it’s about social interaction and community.   They have gotten to know many other seniors throughout the years, and Sadie is quick to add, “Everybody at the Center knows Frank by name!”

The transportation provided by the Hyde Shuttles is just one small-- yet integral— part of their weekly routine.  Sadie expresses much gratitude for the program and praises its volunteer drivers.  She describes them as helpful, thoughtful, friendly, skilled and outstanding.   She labels the program as a “lifesaver.”

Frank and Sadie have not allowed health challenges to take away all the vibrancy of their lives.  They are committed to staying as social and active as they can, and the Hyde Shuttles are there to help them along the way.  Their journeys have been full of many uncommon discoveries—including each other. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Commending Comments

Today, we'd like to share a few examples of the appreciative feedback that clients of Volunteer Transportation provided us via handwritten messages included in their service surveys.  We are fully aware of the true amazingness of our volunteer drivers and staff, but it's always nice to be reminded of the great value they hold in the lives of local seniors!
 
 
“Your services are very much appreciated.  Thank you very much.  You are an asset to people who need you.”

“Very kind, thoughtful and caring people in this program.  Many thanks to them.”

“SO DEPENDABLE.  THE PEOPLE I DEALT WITH WERE ALWAYS SO NICE, BOTH OVER THE PHONE AND IN PERSON.  I THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP.  IT HAS MEANT A LOT TO ME.  YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST!!  HOW IN THIS WORLD COULD I NOT RECOMMEND YOU TO OTHERS??!!”

“I love all of you and am very grateful for your service.”

“Thanks so much & I hope the service lasts forever.”

“I’ve had nothing but great experiences.  I am so grateful & I spread the word to people who are thrilled to hear about it.  Before I was not able to see Dr’s that I really needed to.  I am so happy.”

“I’m so proud of you at Transportation.  May God always bless you.”

“I feel that the volunteers are among the nicest, most helpful people that I know.  Thank you all very much.  You make my life better.”

“I have no family here as they moved to the East coast 2 years ago, and many of my friends no longer drive.  I don’t like to impose on friends either and take up their time.  I don’t think I could continue to live here without Volunteer Transportation.”

“Thank God there are people out there who help other people.”

“Volunteer Transportation is my hero, NO ONE is better!”
Friday, May 9, 2014

Welcome, Kailan!

We'd like introduce you to our newest staff member, Kailan Tyler-Babkirk.  Kailan joined the Volunteer Transportation program as the South King County Coordinator last week, and we feel very fortunate to have her as a part of our team!

A Washingtonian through and through, Kailan was born in Seattle, grew up in Spokane, and spent the last several years living in Olympia-- where she graduated from The Evergreen State College with a BA in psychology and expressive arts.  She then worked in a retirement home as a receptionist and activities assistant where she led exercise classes, arts and crafts activities, and scheduled medical transportation. She has a passion for providing meaningful services to seniors and is thrilled to be part of Senior Services with their mission to promote the emotional, social, and physical well-being of aging adults.

In her spare time, Kailan loves painting, sewing, dancing, and hiking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Recently, she has taken up the hobby of birding and looks forward to expanding her knowledge of NW birds. She is a member of the Seattle Joy Initiative and Compassionate Seattle and enjoys bringing a smile wherever she goes.

Kailan can be reached at kailant@seniorservices.org.
Friday, May 2, 2014

Program Flexibility

The Volunteer Transportation program has over 400 volunteer drivers throughout King County, and we put forth our best efforts to ensure that they are all satisfied and well-supported as they provide valuable rides for King County seniors.  Our talented Transportation Coordinators have skillfully perfected the art of working with each volunteer individually, taking into account his/her abilities, preferences, and interests.  This may seem overwhelming to those of us indirectly involved with the coordinating process, but they make it look easy.

The extra attention that they place on honoring each driver’s changing realities is what makes this volunteer role such a great fit for so many people.  One current volunteer driver recently shared the following with us in an email, “As soon as I read about your program, I felt like it would be a perfect fit. One of the reasons it is so cool is because you are so accommodating to the drivers' needs. Now if all ‘bosses’ were like that, people would sure like their jobs a lot more!” 

Thus, Volunteer Transportation is not a ‘one size fits all’ volunteer opportunity.   We recognize that each driver is different, and his/her life is constantly evolving.   Flexibility is our key to success.  If you know someone who would value this type of fluid volunteer work, please send him/her our way!  We are always in need of more drivers, and our careful Transportation Coordinators would be happy to work with each new volunteer’s unique life circumstances. 
Friday, April 25, 2014

Further Perspective on Our Transportation

This week’s reflection comes from www.seniorliving.org and offers great context for both our Volunteer Transportation and Hyde Shuttle programs.

Personal Transportation for Seniors
Did you know that one-half of Americans 65 and older do not have access to public transportation? And that more than half of all non-drivers 65 and older stay at home in a given day because they don’t have transportation options? Those in rural areas and small towns are particularly affected because the transportation options are limited.
But it’s important for seniors to remain mobile to keep their social independence with friends and family; to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and many other life-prolonging benefits.
 
Is it Time to Stop Driving?
For some seniors, the answer is obvious. They may be too visually impaired to continue driving.
Just consider these vision and driving facts:
  • Vision provides about 85% of information we need to make safe decisions when driving.
  • A 60-year-old requires 10 times as much light to drive as a 19-year-old.
  • A 55-year-old takes eight times longer to recover from glare than a 16-year-old.
  • Older drivers can take twice as long to distinguish the flash of brake lights as younger drivers.
A study of the problems seniors face with transportation was conducted by the Beverly Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Seniordrivers.org summarized their findings with the following themes:
  •  Seniors continue driving “as long as possible because they are unaware of, or do not believe they have, alternative means of transportation.”
  • Seniors “limit their driving or stop driving altogether because of functional difficulties.”
  • “By the time they stop driving, many older adults are so disabled that they are unable to use most public and para-transit systems.”
  • “Next to health, transportation is the most important issue for seniors.”

Ride by ride, we break down these transportation barriers for seniors of King County—providing reassurance and comfort with a personal touch.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Giving at Any Age

Today's post is a video for your viewing enjoyment.  The woman featured in this short film is reminiscent of so many of our volunteer drivers, and her story touches on many themes of our programs.



Her powerful words of wisdom should definitely stick with us: "I'm on the earth.  I'm here.  If I can contribute, I should!  Shouldn't we all-- and not just think of ourselves?!"
 
Friday, April 11, 2014

“12th Man” Celebration

Today marks the end of National Volunteer Week – a nationally designated time to celebrate the contributions and resources that community volunteers provide.  Although we attempt to express appreciation to our volunteers all 52 weeks of the year, it’s a wonderful reminder to all of us of the work and support that our volunteers bring to both the Volunteer Transportation and Hyde Shuttle programs.

With the help of the City of Auburn, we had the opportunity to recognize some of our volunteer drivers who serve older Auburn residents.  We attended a special luncheon entitled “Auburn Volunteers: Our 12th Man” that featured food, decorations, activities, and guest speakers all with a Seahawks motif.  With lots of “12th man” references, the event showcased volunteer contributions within the Auburn community and provided organizations with a way to say “thanks” to their precious volunteers.

Special guests at the event included: Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, Miss Teen Auburn, Phil Bates-- #13 and a Wide Receiver with the Seahawks, Miss Auburn, and Christian from the Sea Gals.
Hilary (Volunteer Transportation staff member), Bruce (volunteer driver), Katie (volunteer driver), and Frank (volunteer driver) greatly enjoyed the luncheon.

In line with the “12th man” theme, organizations were asked to create and perform a cheer honoring their volunteers.  We quickly came up with the following:

Give me a D!
(“D!”)
D is for Dedicated because our drivers never fail to be there!
Give me an R
(“R!”)
R is for Respectful because they treat seniors with care!
Give me an I!
(“I!”)
I is for Important because they help folks in need!
Give me a V!
(“V!”)
V is for Valuable because transportation is precious indeed!
Give me an E!
(“E!”)
E is for Empathetic because our drivers always understand.
Give me an R!
(“R!”)
R is for Ready because our drivers are ready to lend a hand!
What does that spell? 
DRIVER! 
Our drivers are super, fabulous, and great!
They are very easy to appreciate!!
Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo drivers!!!!
(Insert back flip here).

Happy National Volunteer Week to all!
 
Friday, April 4, 2014

HONORABLE SERVICE: Volunteer Drivers Serve Veteran

When the bombs began to drop on Pearl Harbor, 22-year-old Joe Mathias was on the bridge of the Case-DD370, a destroyer ship dismantled for repairs, looking toward the navy yard and waiting to instruct his fellow navy crew members to commence the Morning Colors Ceremony.  But his life, and the course of history, changed in an instant as the explosions interrupted his daily duties as Messenger to the Quartermaster. 

Joe stayed focused amidst the commotion.  As he carried a heavy box of ammunition across the ship, he was so close to Japanese fighter planes that he could see their pilots in the cockpits.  Later that evening, after engineers had fixed the Case-DD370 to allow it to move again, Joe and the rest of the crew received orders to drop a 600-pound canister of dynamite on a Japanese submarine that had been spotted in the harbor.  Joe has since read many reports about Pearl Harbor, but he says, “I’ve never seen that part in the history books!  And most of the stories that have been published aren’t the ones I know.”

Joe has an uncanny ability to lucidly recall details—names, dates, facts, foods, numbers, descriptions— from many events of his life.  He recounts his experiences from the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 as if they were yesterday, and he shares other stories from his youth, years in the navy, and adulthood with equally rich narration.  As he describes a bombardment while stationed on Attu in the Aleutian Islands, the suspense is palpable. 

But Joe also shares less dramatic pieces of his life.  He talks of becoming paralyzed due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 1968 and of his wife’s struggles with Alzheimer’s Disease prior to her death in 2007.  His life has been full of all sorts of unexpected challenges—each calling for a different type of bravery.

Joe is now 95, and he often uses the Volunteer Transportation program for needed rides.  The volunteer drivers who take him to/from medical appointments have the privilege of listening to his wide-ranging and vivid accounts.  It is an honor to learn from someone with such a repertoire of life experiences, and meeting people like Joe is what makes driving with the Volunteer Transportation program such a meaningful and enjoyable activity.  As Joe talks, it is easy to see the spirit of a young sailor infusing the true tales of this animated veteran.

This is 21-year-old Joe at Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois.  As he shows this photo,
he chuckles and recalls seeing a sign that read, "Sailors and dogs, keep off the grass!" 
Joe's dog tags hang from his wall.  He explains the rather morbid purpose of
the ridges found at the end of them"They're placed into the teeth of
a dead man to identify him!" he says.
Joe holds onto a photo montage featuring many key ingredients of his life,
 including pictures with his wife (Phyllis) and images of the Case-DD370.  Ever the
storyteller, Joe quickly jumps into detailed descriptions of items and events
depicted in the collage. 
Friday, March 28, 2014

"Singing" Praises

Today's post is a creative attempt to express our deep appreciation to all of our fabulous volunteer drivers.  Please imagine our staff singing together-- with impeccable pitch, in perfect unison, with much grandiosity and heartfelt spirit.  Please also envision some stellar accompanying dance moves.


The tune to this song is "Rubber Duckie" from Sesame Street.  It has come to our attention that many folks are unfamiliar with this classic song, so you can first get a taste of the tune here.  Please also feel free to create your own melody.

So, without further ado, here is our little ditty for your entertainment (clearing vocal chords):

Volunteer drivers, we love you!
You are heroes through and through.
Volunteer drivers, you’re lifesavers, it’s true!
(woh woh, bee doh!)

Volunteer drivers, we send you praise.
You brighten seniors’ days.
Volunteer Drivers, you’re amazing in oh-so-many ways!
(doo doo dooooo, doo doo)

(DIFFERENT TUNE JUST FOR THIS VERSE)
Oh, when a senior
is feeling lonely and melancholy,
you take them for a ride
and then they feel energized and jolly!
(drive-a-drive-drive!)

Volunteer drivers, you’re so great.
You are hardly ever late.
Volunteer drivers, you are easy to appreciate!
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah)

 (CHORUS BUT DIFFERENT LAST LINE)
Volunteer drivers, we love you!
You are heroes through and through.
Volunteer drivers, we just wanted to say “THANK YOU!”
OPTIONAL: (you, you, you, you!)

We hope that you have enjoyed our musical message of thanks.  We are determined to never run out of ways to tell our volunteer drivers how grateful we are for all that they do!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Volunteer in the Limelight: Robert Cuffel

Just a couple short months ago, Robert Cuffel became the newest member of our Hyde Shuttle Volunteer Driver team in Des Moines.  We were all elated to have him on board, as the program was (and still is) in great need of additional drivers.  Robert seamlessly adjusted to his new role with a wonderful can-do attitude and has already become an invaluable part of the Hyde community. 

Therefore, we thought it might be nice to hear his fresh perspectives as the “new kid on the block.”  He provided us with the following responses about his experiences as a volunteer shuttle driver thus far:
  • What made you decide to become a Hyde Shuttle volunteer driver?  As a retiree, I wanted to give back to our community.  There is a great need.
  • What do you enjoy most about serving as a driver thus far? The clients are wonderful.  I feel fortunate helping out.
  • What has been the most interesting part of this volunteer job? The most interesting and challenging part was to become familiar with the addresses.  I generally drive to familiar locations without taking note of the addresses.  It was somewhat humbling to view driving in this new context.
  • Why do you think this is such a needed service in our community? People are very busy with the demands of their jobs, families and friends.  In my case, I wasn't aware of how the great the need is.
  • Is there anything that you’ve learned or reflected about because of your role of volunteer driver that you’d like to share with us? How very fortunate I and my family are to have independence and good health to enjoy. 
Thank you to Robert for so quickly and thoughtfully jumping into the world of the Hyde Shuttles!  We hope that he continues to enjoy his service with the program for years to come, and that many others join this admirable team as well.
Friday, March 14, 2014

Viva Volunteers Fair 2014

And now for a few words from one of our sponsors!  The Viva Volunteers Fair is one of many opportunities that has been presented to us to find much-needed volunteer drivers, and we’ll be there spreading the word about the amazing joys and rewards of serving with Volunteer Transportation in just a few short weeks.  If you live on the Eastside, please drop on by!

Here is more information about the event:
Do you want to get involved in volunteer work, but haven’t found the right program?   Viva Volunteers! Fair  on Saturday, April 5 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Peter Kirk Community Center is just what you need – and it’s free.

You will learn about a wide variety of volunteer programs by chatting with people who have worked in them.  In addition, there will be short presentations on current hot topics and demonstrations of cooking, flower arranging, and Zumba® dancing.  Every half hour, we’ll give out door prizes donated by local businesses.  We’ll also have free snacks and coffee for you to enjoy while you visit the exhibits.
Viva Volunteers! is presented for people of all ages by the Kirkland Senior Council. 

We're looking forward to it.  It's always uplifting to meet others who love volunteering as much as we do!
Friday, March 7, 2014

Momentia!

This handout was produced by Seattle residents
with early-stage dementia.
In our various roles within Senior Services’ Transportation Program, we often come across seniors living with dementia.   This can be challenging and upsetting for us to encounter, and our hearts go out to those grappling with their new memory-related struggles of daily living.

 Yet, a local program (often given the name of “Momentia”) attempts to de-stigmatize dementia and remind us of the many gifts seniors with Alzheimer’s disease have to offer.  The positive spirit and hope of Momentia are very inspiring, and participants are emboldened and empowered by its various offerings.  Hence, we’d like to share more about this program with you today.

Marigrace Becker offers lively and descriptive reflections about Momentia on the ChangingAging blog.  She proclaims,
This, together, is Momentia. A new story told most compellingly and vividly by people living with dementia. A community transformation unfolding as the new story surges onward, leaving its tangible and joyful mark in our museums, parks, community centers, art galleries, stadiums and coffee shops. An irresistible invitation for us all to play a part in abundantly life-giving ways.

And through it all, we use the word to celebrate. The old dementia story has come to an end. The new dementia story is emerging. Momentia! Try saying it. It must, in fact, be exclaimed. The word springs from the lips, proclaiming, transforming, inviting. Momentia! There’s a new dementia story being told. It’s a hopeful story, it’s a triumphant story, and we’re all a part of it. Momentia! We’re not afraid anymore. We are celebrating. Because as dementia is on the rise, so is Momentia!”

It’s hard not to get excited about Momentia with such enlivening words!  KUOW recently aired a story about the program’s group at the Greenwood Senior Center, which you can listen to here, and you can also find out more about Momentia on its Facebook page.  In addition, our post is very timely because an entertaining Momentia evening showcasing the "new dementia story” told by persons with memory loss will take place on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 from 5:30PM to 7:30PM, at The Kendall Center, Taproot Theatre.   You can find out more with the flyer located here.   We hope to see you there.

Let’s get some powerful momentum rolling for Momentia!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Appointment Arrival Part III: Into the Office

After the dropping-off or parking processes described in the last two reflections, Mike (driver) and Mary (client) demonstrated the typical waiting room routine.

Mike and Mary got off the elevator and headed for check-in.  They were impressively early.
Mary is 86-years-old and has regularly received rides from the Volunteer Transportation program for 11 years.  “I just don’t know what I’d do without it!” she told me.
 
Like many volunteer drivers often do, Mike had brought a book to enjoy while waiting during Mary’s appointment.  They modeled reading as a favorite waiting room pastime. 

I was grateful to spend time (albeit brief) with Mike and Mary as they brought yet another part of the ride process to life for me!  Like all the other drivers and clients that I photographed, they reminded me of the many facets of Volunteer Transportation.

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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