Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon Recap

The Transportation Program’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon took place on December 15th, and (as always) it was a fun and inspiring event for all those in attendance. The gathering was the perfect way to thank volunteers for everything they’ve done in the past year and recognize drivers celebrating milestone anniversaries with the program. With good food, motivating words of wisdom, interesting conversation, and amazing prizes, it was certainly an afternoon to remember!

Here, staff members eagerly await the arrival of over 215 volunteers and program supporters at the check-in table.
The room was soon filled to the brim with positive energy and excitement.
5-year drivers
10-year drivers
15-year drivers
Many wonderful door prizes were given out to over 30 lucky winners.
There was even a unique fish basket.

Cindy Zwart, Transportation Program Director and Senior Services employee for 25 years, included a humorous and thoughtful Top Ten list in her remarks. All volunteer drivers could relate to her commentary.  Her "Top Ten Reasons You Know You are a Volunteer Driver" were as follows:

1. You don’t get paid. And believe me, we couldn’t afford to pay you! Last year you donated over 55,000 hours of your time – the value of your time based on Washington State’s estimated value of volunteer labor was $1,266,824.90!

2. On a regular basis, your significant other looks at you and says, “Are you taking the car again, dear?”

3. You know the back roads to every medical facility in King County.

4. You feel really, really good! Studies show that people who volunteer experience better physical health, including lower blood pressure, increased brain function, lower rates of depression and a longer lifespan. Which means you can drive for us for many more years!

5. You are the star of your book club because now you have time to read each month’s selection while waiting at the doctor’s office for your client.

6. You have a recurring nightmare that you are lost in a parking garage in downtown Seattle and cannot find your way out.

7. You mean to call your husband, but you call Donald [Lead Volunteer Transportation Coordinator] instead.

8. You’ve made many, many new friends. In all their cards and letters, clients describe you as their friend, their life saver, their hero, their guardian angel. Every time you drive, you bring a smile to their face, a little joy to their day, you touch their hearts and make they realize that someone cares.

9. Every year you get to attend a fabulous Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon.

10. At night when you go to sleep, and in the morning when you wake up, you know in your heart that whatever evils and problems afflict this world that you are helping to make our community a more humane and better place to live.

The festive occasion renewed enthusiasm for continuing our collective work to “make our community a more humane and better place to live.”

***We’d like to publicly thank this year’s door prize sponsors who helped make the 2015 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon such a resounding success: Ivar’s/Kidd Valley Restaurants, Taco Time, Tim’s Cascade Potato Chips, McLendon Hardware, Jiffy Lube, PCC Natural Markets, EMP Museum, Washington Dental Service, Brown Bear Car Wash, LeMay Car Museum, Total Wine & More, Wing Luke Museum, Trader Joe’s, Museum of Flight, Ethan Stowell’s Chippy’s restaurant in Ballard, Mary Ann Arnone, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Chocolates, Office Depot/Office Max, Emerald Downs, Trident Seafood, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Paula Houston, Pacific Science Center, Donald and Teresa Benedict, and Tulalip Resort Casino.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Seattle Times Spotlight

We were delighted to see our program, including volunteer driver Bill Goodfellow and client Mary Roberts, featured in this article in today's edition of the Seattle Times.  We were profiled because Senior Services is one of twelve local agencies that will benefit from the Seattle Times Fund For the Needy.  What an exciting opportunity!

We'd like to share the story's narrative about Volunteer Transportation here:

Seniors helping seniors
While some Seattle and King County residents enjoyed an economic resurgence after the recession of 2008, those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder have not shared in the prosperity.

In the annual overnight count of homeless in King County early this year, volunteers found 3,772 men, women and children had no shelter, more than a 20 percent increase from the previous year.

Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, called the tally “heartbreaking evidence that we cannot cover our community’s most basic needs.”

The numbers of people in need are large. The Census Bureau estimates that 60,000 children and 20,000 seniors in King County are living in households below the poverty level.

As baby boomers age, the ranks of elders swell. Today’s “youngest” oldsters may need to stay in the workforce longer, or live more years in which they’ll depend on Social Security and savings.

In the effort to help seniors, Senior Services uses a particularly effective resource: other seniors.

Of the 3,800 volunteers that put in a combined 274,000 hours last year, the agency estimates that 85 percent were at least 60 years old.

Among them is Bill Goodfellow, of Seattle, who’ll turn 80 in December.

For seven years — usually several times a week — he has driven Senior Services clients to doctor visits or other appointments. He stays through their appointments and takes them home.

The retired architect and structural engineer happily gives up the time. If the appointment is a long one, that’s fine, he said. It gives him more time to read the library books — including many mysteries — he has downloaded onto his iPad.

Goodfellow forgoes the money Senior Services offers for gas and parking, as do other drivers he knows, who consider it part of “their contribution to the program.”

Mary Roberts, 89, of Seattle, gets dropped off at her
dentist’s office by Senior Services volunteer Bill Goodfellow.
(Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times) 
The unsung heroes of the program, he said, are the Senior Services staffers who, a week at a time, match up ride requests with the available drivers.

Senior Services’ ride programs took clients a total of 1,113,422 miles last year, the equivalent of more than two round trips to the moon.

The best part of the assignment, he said, is meeting interesting people, such as Mary Roberts, 89, whom he recently drove from her Capitol Hill apartment to her Beacon Hill dentist.

Mary Roberts, 89, of Seattle, jokes around with
Senior Services volunteer driver Bill Goodfellow, who turns 80
in December. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
A few years ago, Roberts might not have envisioned needing this service. But that changed when she got in a serious car crash while driving to a square-dancing session in West Seattle.

“No one was injured, thankfully. But I decided it was a sign. I couldn’t take the thought of hurting someone.” So she hung up her car keys for good.

Roberts, a retired materials-purchasing manager for a railroad, enjoys walking and doesn’t mind the 12-block walk to her church, Capitol Hill Presbyterian.

But she’s glad to have the option of Senior Services rides to doctor visits. She makes donations for the rides — but still less than she’d have to pay if she used a taxi.

And she regards Goodfellow as nothing less than an important civic asset.

“He just a really sweet guy,” she said. “And we’re fortunate to have him.”


 As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, we give thanks for Bill and all the rest of our our amazing and inspiring volunteer drivers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Heartfelt Client Appreciation

Mariam M. is a 93-year-old Bothell resident who is originally from Armenia.  When her family learned that she would require daily radiation treatments, they were grateful to discover the Volunteer Transportation program.  Mariam and her daughter-in-law rode with many different volunteer drivers over the past few weeks as they travelled frequently to Evergreen Hospital’s Oncology Department, and they greatly appreciated the service and support during such a difficult time.

We were very touched by the thank you card we received from Mariam this week, and we’d like to share it with you here:

It reads,
“To Volunteer Transportation Senior Services,
Thank you for offering this wonderful and much needed service for Senior Citizens.  It sure made life easier for my children and I.  Your hard work combined with love, caring and dedication makes this world a very beautiful place to live in.  If only everyone can act and help each other like this, the whole world will be at peace.

Love all of you & your fabulous volunteers,
Mariam M. & family”

Amen!  What a lovely statement!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Welcome, Claire

Claire McDaniel joined the Volunteer Transportation staff on July 21st as the program’s intrepid Administrative Assistant. She is very busy learning all of the intricate behind-the-scenes work necessary to make our program the well-oiled machine it is today!

After 20 years in Seattle as an administrative professional in the corporate world, Claire was ready to make the move to a nonprofit where she can do more meaningful work. Senior Services was just what she was looking for! Before joining us, her most fulfilling position was the four years she spent at Seattle Housing Authority as Executive Assistant to the Director of Communications. Claire saw how much low income housing residents appreciated the opportunity to live in safe, affordable and comfortable communities. While studying Sociology at San Jose State University, she learned not only about how society shapes each of us, but also how individuals can shape society. We are all connected; therefore, lending a helping hand to even one of us benefits us all.

In her spare time, Claire enjoys hanging out at home in Ballard with her adorable Calico cat, Ophelia. Her favorite neighborhood spot is the botanical garden at the Locks, where she can sit under a tree and listen to the birds. Another of her interests is traveling, especially trips to New Orleans, Louisiana and Paris, France. She loves to read on her Kindle, too. Lately, she has been making her way through the 10 book series about Detective Kurt Wallander by Swedish author, Henning Mankell.

We are so excited to have Claire on our team! We know that she will keep Volunteer Transportation running smoothly and efficiently with her thoughtfulness, organization, and attention to detail.

 She can be reached at

Friday, July 31, 2015

Client Profile: Fern Malavaceo

Volunteer driver, Reta Beals, escorts Fern to an appointment.
71-year-old Fern Malavaceo does not know what she’d do without Volunteer Transportation.  Forty years ago, she decided that driving was not for her.  It caused her great anxiety, especially after she’d had multiple harrowing experiences behind the wheel on freeways in the rain.  She relied on her kids to take her to appointments when they could, but she often felt stuck when they were unavailable.  She registered for Volunteer Transportation three years ago and says, “The program is such a blessing!”

For Fern, Volunteer Transportation is about comfort and familiarity.  She explains, “The drivers are awesome!  They are so considerate.  They’re like family members to me.”  She loves how volunteers typically wait for her as she’s in an appointment and reports that she always feels supported throughout the whole process.

Fern (and others like her) make it clear that volunteer drivers have an amazing ability to ease stress and calm nerves.  They bring Zen to the art of giving rides.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Welcome, Kaitlin

The Volunteer Transportation program is incredibly pleased to welcome Kaitlin Sovich as its new Eastside/West Seattle Coordinator.  She is the perfect fit for this rewarding/challenging role!

Kaitlin, a native Floridian, grew up in Southwest Florida on the Gulf Coast. While in high school, her first job as a dining services and events associate at an assisted living community taught her that she wants to spend her career making the lives of seniors the best that they can be. She has looked forward to working with seniors again ever since leaving that job to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL in 2009. While at UF, she sought out work in a research lab focusing on memory and aging, and upon graduating with her B.A. in anthropology and sociology in May 2013, she went to work for the UF College of Medicine as a Research Coordinator in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy.  After six happy years in Gainesville, in July 2015, Kaitlin and her partner moved to Seattle for new opportunities in life and work. Kaitlin is very excited to have joined the Volunteer Transportation team at Senior Services and finds working with seniors in this capacity to be dynamic and fulfilling.

In her spare time, Kaitlin enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cat, exploring her neighborhood, and spending time with her partner and friends in this incredible city.

We know that all Volunteer Transportation clients and staff will love working with Kaitlin as she uses her skills and talents to breathe life into the program!  Feel free to drop her a line at

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Helpfulness: A Word Reflection

Helpful is a word we hear over and over again in our office.  Seniors often call in and say, “My volunteer driver yesterday was so helpful.”  Our volunteers tell us that they find meaning and purpose in being helpful to seniors in need of assistance; “I like to be helpful,” they say.  It’s a word used so frequently that it has almost become ubiquitous. 

A quick Google search of the term produces the following:

1.      giving or ready to give help."people are friendly and helpful"
obliging, eager to please, kind, accommodating, supportive, cooperative; sympathetic, boosterish, neighborly, charitable

This Google definition provides us with other terms to describe our “helpful” volunteers: obliging, eager to please, kindaccommodatingsupportivecooperativesympatheticboosterishneighborly, and charitable.  All have slightly different connotations, yet they all are fitting descriptions of our volunteers.

No matter which adjective we use (no thesaurus necessary), it’s clear is that our volunteer drivers are amazing and much-appreciated!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Saying Thanks

This card arrived to our office earlier this week.
Clients of our transportation programs express gratitude in many ways.  Although we don’t expect or solicit appreciation, hearing “thank you” reminds our employees and volunteers of the value of our work.   

Our staff recently received a thank you note (that included a token of appreciation) from Gail, a regular client of Volunteer Transportation.  We can’t share the treats that she provided with everyone, but we’d love to share her message with all of you: 
It reads:

Dear Donald, Amy, Kailan & all others in the office whose names I don’t know & who also deserve thanks!!
Thank you all so much for helping me these last few years—you’ve been kind & helpful & patient – and you have all worked hard to find me many, many rides!
Here’s a mid-year treat I hope you all can share—
Cheers & gratitude—

In the spirit of gratitude, we’d like to publicly thank Gail for her thoughtful surprise! 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Program Poetry

It's time for some creativity!  Here are some reflective haikus about the typical Volunteer Transportation experience for your enjoyment:

Haiku 1
Gently and swiftly,
The car moves. The people chat.
The ride brings relief.

Haiku 2
Riding together,
They talk. They laugh. They relax.
Nerves wane as wheels spin.

Who knew it would be so difficult to sum up the essence of our program in 5-7-5 syllables?!!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Small World Story: Reconnecting with Long-term Family Friends

Auburn circa 1920.
When Lee (volunteer driver) took Marie and Roy Petersen to an eye doctor appointment, they certainly had a lot to talk about!  Marie and Roy, both 93, have known Lee and his family for many decades, and they’d often crossed paths in Auburn.   Marie had frequently volunteered for various community programs with Lee’s mother, Elaine, and Lee had carpeted the Petersen’s home and cabin for over thirty years prior to his recent retirement.  Marie was happy to see a familiar face and commented, “It was so nice to see him again!”

Lee, Marie and Roy all know a lot of local history.  Lee was born and raised in Auburn; Marie moved to Auburn in 1943; and Roy was born in Algona (Auburn’s neighbor) in 1921.  Community involvement is important to all of them.  Although they’ve seen the area change a great deal over the years, their reconnection demonstrates that Auburn still can have that “small town” feel at times.

The Volunteer Transportation program is full of such serendipitous reunions, and volunteers and clients often discover many commonalities.  This inspires a possible new tagline for the program:  See what worlds collide during a ride!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farewell to Amy

Today is a sad day for the Volunteer Transportation community as we say goodbye to Amy Husted.  Amy first started at Senior Services as an MSW intern in 2011 and has served as our Eastside Coordinator for four years. Staff, volunteers and clients of the program have come to know Amy as a dedicated, cheerful, thoughtful and efficient worker who always makes time to support people in need.  Although we are all happy for her as she begins the next steps of her career, she will certainly be missed!

Upon Amy’s departure from Senior Services, we asked her to reflect about her experiences with Volunteer Transportation:

What do you think makes Volunteer Transportation such a valuable program?
Volunteer Transportation provides much more than transportation; it offers a means to build relationships with people in our community.  Clients, volunteers and doctors are all able to connect with one another through this valuable service and volunteer opportunity.  It’s exciting to think of neighbors helping neighbors, retired pediatricians taking their (now older) patients, or community members reconnecting with distant family members or long lost friends.  What a wonderful way of making the world a better place!

What have you enjoyed most about your work at Volunteer Transportation?
I've enjoyed working with a strong and supportive office team and lovely volunteers to provide a much needed service to our community.  It has been a joy to be a part of this amazing group of people. 

What has been a challenge for you?
Saying goodbye.  I hate goodbye.

What has been most memorable for you?
I always enjoyed the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheons.  Although I work closely with the Eastside and West Seattle/Burien drivers each week, I worked with many South King County and North King County volunteers when a co-worker was out of the office.  It’s fun to match people’s names and voices with a human being!  I appreciated seeing all the volunteers celebrating together in one place. 

What have you learned from your time at Volunteer Transportation?
My time with Volunteer Transportation has taught me many things but the most influential lesson learned is the perseverance of the human spirit.  Whether it’s losing a devoted partner of 40 years, living with a chronic condition, or struggling with memory loss, people are strong and resilient.  They are capable of so many things.

Thank you, Amy, for all that you've brought to Senior Services over the last several years!  We know that you’ll continue to lighten the lives of others as you move on to your next professional role.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Office Humor

We encounter many amusing situations on a daily basis. Today's story (which is based on common experiences around our office) is simply for your entertainment:

As part of her typical Friday callback routine, the South King County Scheduler patiently lists out the volunteer drivers assigned to a client heading to multiple appointments the following week.  She says, “On Monday, Larry will take you to your appointment, and Jerry will take you home.  On Wednesday, Terry will take you to your appointment, and Barry will take you home.  On Friday, Harry will take you to your appointment, and Mary will take you home.”

The client pauses for a moment and remarks, “Oh, great!  I’m so excited to meet Carrie!”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Volunteer Driver Receives Distinguished Honor

The Volunteer Transportation program is incredibly proud of volunteer driver Syd Darlington, who was recently recognized by Governor Jay Inslee at the 2015 Washington State Governor’s Awards for Volunteerism.  Syd and 38 other awardees were selected out of Washington State’s 1.82 million volunteers and honored at a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia.   Recipients ranged in age from 15 to 82.  Syd was humbled and inspired by the event.

Syd developed a strong ethic of service after arriving to the United States from the UK in 1981, but he became fully immersed in volunteer work after retiring in late 2007. He admits that he “doesn't like to be still for long” and enjoys keeping busy by serving his community. His volunteer résumé is quite long and includes a wide variety of roles.  In addition to driving seniors with Volunteer Transportation, Syd serves the Bellevue Police Department as a Crossroads Community Police Station attendant and general “Jack of all trades” (from record digitizing to event photography); teaches at Unity of Bellevue; and advises and judges with DECA.  Syd is clearly a people-person and reports that, like most volunteers, he understands the “warm glow” one receives from helping others.   He finds all of his volunteer work to be very rewarding and knows that it keeps his mind active and alert.

Volunteer driving is very near and dear to Syd.  When he first signed-up to drive for Volunteer Transportation back in 2008, he admits that he had no idea of how important and needed the service is for its clients.   He explains how he has learned the many layers of volunteer driving.  He says, “We are more than just drivers.   We are caregivers and companions.  We serve as social bridges for people who might not otherwise have outside contact with others.  Going to appointments is never a fun thing in the first place, and we bring light to the situation.”  In addition, Syd feels privileged to have given rides to many inspiring seniors who are great role models of aging gracefully.  He values these relationships.

Congratulations, Syd!  You remind us of what volunteering is all about.

Friday, March 27, 2015

In the News!

KING 5, a local NBC affiliate, aired a story about our Volunteer Transportation program and its need for volunteer drivers earlier this week. Through poignant footage of Claire Anderson (client) and Judy Goett (volunteer driver), the report demonstrates how King County residents can "give a lift and lift spirits at the same time!"

Here it is:

We are grateful for this coverage and hopeful that it will connect us with lots of people feeling inspired and ready to hit the roads with Volunteer Transportation!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Volunteer Driving-- The Best Way to Spend Your Retirement Years!

Our volunteer drivers represent a variety of backgrounds and have a diverse array of experiences.  They come from all walks of life and span seven decades of the age spectrum.  But there’s no denying that a large number of them are retired.

This became particularly clear at a recent volunteer driver gathering in Kirkland. As each volunteer introduced himself/herself, many stated something along the lines of the following: “I became a volunteer driver because I wanted something meaningful to do that would get me out of the house and keep me busy during retirement.”  They also remarked, “I really enjoy it because the people are so grateful for my help and make me feel like I’m making a difference.”

These volunteers are on to something.  As noted in this article in USA Today,

"Volunteering is not only good for others, it's good for you.

Research shows that people who volunteer report lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations and lower levels of stress than those who don't volunteer, says Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that administers Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and other programs. ‘The health benefits are huge.’"

The story also details the significant positive impact these retirees collectively make in our communities: "More than 20 million older adults — more than a quarter of those 55 and older — contributed on average more than 3 billion hours of service in their communities per year from 2011 to 2013. The value of this service is estimated at $75 billion."

We are grateful to have so many retirees as volunteer drivers for our program.  It is an obvious win-win situation for all of us!

Of course, if you know a retiree looking for a fun and worthwhile way to make the best of their newfound freedom [or anyone else with weekday availability], send them our way!  Have them contact Hilary at (206)748-7588 or to start their journey as a volunteer driver.  They can “pay it forward” while finding passion and purpose in their golden years.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Volunteer in the Limelight: Kathe Kern

One of our incredible volunteer drivers, Kathe Kern, is featured in Senior Services' latest e-newsletter.  You can find it here, and we've also pasted it below for your enjoyment.  We are so glad that Kathe (and all 5 of her boys) have been a part of the Volunteer Transportation program for so long!   

Volunteer driver Kathe Kern and client Tamaya Nomi.

Kathe Kern has been on the road for 25 years, and counting.

Senior Services volunteer driver Kathe Kern has always believed in giving her time to help others. With a degree in zoology and chemistry she began her first volunteer gig—reading and recording textbooks for blind students. But when her first son came along, Kathe found she could no longer make recordings. Babies are loud! 

Fortunately, Kathe came across a Senior Services ad in the newspaper for volunteer drivers to take seniors to medical appointments. The gig seemed perfect as it allowed her to put her little boy in the backseat and take him along. Twenty-five years and four more boys later, Kathe is still driving. All five kids—one or two at a time—accompanied her as she went from her Mercer Island home all over the east side and Seattle with elders needing rides to the doctor.

Kathe says her boys learned valuable lessons from the experience. “I drove a woman who had cancer,” she remembers, “and she yelled at me. The boys’ eyes got as big as the moon, since they knew no one was allowed to talk to mom that way. Later I explained that the lady was very sick and maybe dying, and this is one of those times you have to be understanding.”

Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation program provides door-to-door rides to medical appointments and back for seniors who are not able to drive themselves or manage public transportation. Last year, 800 caring and dedicated people—many of them seniors themselves—volunteered to help elders get to their doctors. 

According to Kathe, the rewards of driving are great. “It has been as good for me as for the people I drove,” she says. “They’re good company and we tell each other our stories.” The clients have been appreciative and always loved seeing Kathe’s kids.

Though the boys are grown now, Kathe still drives several times a week. “It gets me out of the house!” 
Friday, February 27, 2015

Volunteer Drivers Needed!

Please help us spread the word: We are in great need of more volunteer drivers!  Here is our latest call for volunteers:

Drive the Distance for Local Seniors!

Getting to the doctor’s office can seem daunting for many local seniors.  Poor vision or medical conditions prevent them from driving; limited mobility makes it impossible to take the bus; taxis come with prohibitive costs; and loved ones have full-time jobs that render them unavailable to help.  Yet, since 1975, Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation has served as a trustworthy resource for older adults throughout King County.  With its force of kind and reliable volunteers, the program provides the missing link between seniors and their necessary medical care.

But the value of Volunteer Transportation extends far beyond the rides themselves.  A volunteer driver serves as a friendly escort-- a companion-- someone to talk to along the way.  Volunteers turn previously stressful ordeals into pleasant, meaningful experiences.

More volunteer drivers are needed throughout King County.  The program currently does not have enough volunteer drivers to keep up with the growing community need for transportation.

You can help more seniors get “on the road” to improved health and peace of mind!  If you have a reliable vehicle, a clean driving record and some weekday availability, this is the role for you. Call (206) 748-7588, email Hilary at or visit to find out more.  Discover why rides change lives!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Client Profile: Rose Braun

Farm Work to City Life

Rose holds up a photograph featuring [almost] all of 
the 17 members of her immediate family!
Rose Braun is an 88-year-old regular Volunteer Transportation client.  It is easy to see that her current life in Shoreline is a far cry from her youth in North Dakota.

Rose grew up on a farm during the Great Depression in a family of fifteen children (not including one who died of Scarlett Fever) without running water, irrigation, or electricity.  Their home included many features of this traditional lifestyle, yet it was equipped for North Dakota’s extreme seasons.  They had an outhouse; an old-fashioned, non-electric washing machine; windmills; rain barrels for collecting water; a root cellar; a smokehouse that converted to an ice house with the use of ice cut out of frozen rivers and insulation provided by straw; and a sleigh that converted to a wagon. They had a “summer house” for butchering, canning, and hot cooking in warmer months and a rope that guided them to the well for water during winter blizzards.  There was never a dull moment in such a household!

Pictures from Rose's childhood: the family's
 threshing machine, farmhouse, and summer house
Rose and her fourteen siblings developed a strong work ethic at an early age.  The girls of her family were born first (Rose was the sixth child), and they worked long days in the fields with tasks like binding and threshing before milking the cows and completing household chores.  She remembers times when the family had company, which meant that they started cooking at 2:00AM and stayed up late into the night washing dishes.  When they were older, Rose and her sisters all found work outside of the home to pay their way through high school, making $1 per month.  They didn't take anything for granted.

Rose reports that she never felt deprived during her formative years.  “There were really bad days and really good days,” she explains.  It was just a different way of life.
Rose's parents

Rose seized an opportunity to move to the Pacific Northwest in 1952 but brought her hardworking farm girl outlook with her.  She got a job at Boeing, raised a family, and ran her own house cleaning operation for 21 years.  The fieldwork of her youth caused her to need both knees replaced in 1994, and she survived breast cancer several years ago.  When her husband, Al, became ill and lost his vision, Rose learned to drive in her late 70’s.  She provided his transportation to local appointments until he passed away in 2009.

As a new driver, Rose never felt comfortable driving freeways.  She and Al both initially registered for the Volunteer Transportation program in 2002, and she continues to rely on the program’s volunteer drivers to get to regular appointments with the eye doctor.  She really appreciates the service.  She says, “I’m so glad to have you guys!”

Volunteer drivers love meeting Rose and talking with her during rides.  She has strong memories of her early days and exudes an inspiring spirit of vivacity.  Although a lot has changed in her life over the years, Rose clearly still has her North Dakota-born strength and determination.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Small World Story

An Unexpected Ride with a Relative

Volunteer driver, Louise Mnich
“You just never know who you might meet on a volunteer ride!” says Volunteer Transportation driver Louise Mnich.  She has given many rides since she joined the program’s volunteer force in September 2013 and met many amazing seniors along the way.   But there is one client who stands out above the others.  That person is Virginia Hamilton.

Like Louise, Virginia loves Volunteer Transportation and has had countless memorable rides since she became a client in 2011.  She regularly praises all of the program’s volunteer drivers and often calls them her “angels.”  Yet, the fateful ride that she recently received from Louise was different from all the rest.  In fact, the 96-year-old describes the day Louise took her to Seattle’s PacMed Clinic from her home in Bellevue as one of the best days of her life!

The ride started out like any other, and Virginia could quickly tell that she liked Louise.  They had so much in common; they shared many of the same interests (they even liked the same radio talk show host); and they talked as if they’d known each other for years.  The tone of the conversation changed drastically, though, when Louise recognized some of the names Virginia mentioned.  Louise asked, “Are you related to Larry Hamilton?”

Larry Hamilton was her mother’s cousin.  He survived the Bataan Death March and became a POW at the Cabanatuan Camp, where he was later shipped to Manchuria, China.  He completed manual labor as a Japanese POW in Manchuria for 43 months and lived to tell harrowing tales of survival.  After the war, he spent several weeks with Louise’s grandmother (Larry’s aunt) in LA after being released from a military hospital in San Francisco, and Louise met him much later as a teenager growing up in Southern California.  Larry was a true inspiration to her… and he was also Virginia’s late husband!

“Talk about serendipity!” Louise exclaims as she recounts their conversation.  She and Virginia compared notes about their family (including times that they’d possibly met in the past) and rehashed all of Larry’s war stories.  Virginia was surprised at how much Louise knew about her deceased husband, and she was able to fill in some of the gaps.

Louise writes, “Meeting Larry as a teenager made a lasting impression on me.  He told one touching story about a Japanese doctor at a POW camp in Manchuria.  Larry was seriously ill with spinal meningitis.   At great risk to himself, the Japanese doctor obtained and administered medicine to Larry, which saved his life.”  This real-life parable demonstrated that goodness can be found in all people, even during situations that bring out the worst of them, and it had always stuck with Louise as one of life’s most important lessons.  Virginia was able to update the story: She and Larry later returned to Japan and, remarkably, found that same Japanese doctor!  They were able to throw him a party and thank him for saving Larry’s life.
An image from the Bataan Death March

Louise and Virginia also reflected about Larry’s time in the Bataan Death March.  Virginia described how he was able to stay alive because of the survival skills he’d acquired as a Boy Scout in Arizona, helping him to conserve resources.  Larry’s ordeal had often crossed Louise’s mind.  She explains, “When I was in the Navy, I was stationed in the Philippines and got to see where the last of the American forces fought on Corregidor, the roadways used during the Bataan Death March, and the first Philippine POW camp.  It was moving for me to think I had a relative who lived through all of that.  Unfortunately, Larry died while I was living in the Philippines, so I was never able to share my later experiences with him.”  Spending time with Virginia allowed Louise to explain her own emotional connection to Larry’s arduous journey.

When Virginia reached the clinic, her blood pressure was lower than it has been in years.  “It was because of happiness!” she states.  “Being so happy made me healthier.”

Both Louise and Virginia report that they are thrilled to have found one another, and they are currently working to restore old family ties.  Louise says, “Virginia is an interesting woman in her own right, and I look forward to getting to know her better and learn about her life as well.”

We often use the tagline “Rides change lives,” and this statement rings true for both Louise Mnich and Virginia Hamilton.  A seemingly ordinary trip to the doctor had extraordinary implications for both of them, transforming their lives in a profoundly meaningful way.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Client profile: Wasyl Fedorowicz

Kindness and Resilience amidst Adversity:
The Story of Wasyl Fedorowicz
Wasyl rides the Hyde Shuttles three times per week and is a 
regular client of Volunteer Transportation.

Wasyl  Fedorowicz is a survivor.  Like many Ukrainians, his life was molded by dark events of Eastern Europe’s long history of conflict.  There are memories so upsetting he buried them deep into his subconscious and experiences so traumatizing they caused him years of PTSD-induced nightmares.   His story, like that of his homeland, contains underlying currents of cruelty, suffering and injustice.  But it is also marked by great kindness.  Interwoven through Wasyl’s tales of fear, powerlessness and hardship is the strong theme of compassion.

War shaped much of Wasyl’s journey.  He was born in 1923 in a small Ukrainian village under Polish control.  At a young age, he was recruited to serve as a courier to an underground organization against the Soviet Union-- delivering messages in the cold and darkness of stormy nights.  World War II broke out when he was 16.  The Germans soon invaded his country and sent him to a forced labor camp in Germany at age 19.  He never saw his parents alive again.   He spent the next 7 years of his life, even after the end of WWII in 1945, in German camps.  He moved to the United States as a displaced person in 1949 and wasn’t able to visit his village again until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Wasyl vividly recalls times when brave, kind people saved his life.  Once, his boss’ daughter intervened as angry members of Hitler’s loyal SS Corps were ready to shoot him.  One grabbed Wasyl’s hat and pulled it down so forcefully that it covered his face.  With gentle grace, the young German woman reminded the belligerent militants that Wasyl and his friends were hard workers contributing to the war effort. They left him alone.

Another time, an English officer interviewed Wasyl to assign him his respective ethnic camp.  Wasyl proudly announced that he was Ukrainian.  The officer would not have it.  He asserted, “You are NOT Ukrainian; you are Polish!”  It wasn’t until later that Wasyl realized the official’s intent: While the Ukrainian camp would have placed him in unendurable conditions, placement in a Polish camp gave him opportunity.  He remembers saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the caring officer.

Wasyl’s stories of more recent years have a very different tone, but they continue to include examples of selfless acts in the midst of challenging circumstances.  He provided many years of tender care for his wife, Helen, as she adjusted to life after a knee replacement, a broken hip and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.   But it soon became too much for him to manage.  They eventually relocated to Seattle to be near family, and Helen moved to a skilled nursing facility.

Wasyl now relies on Senior Services’ Transportation Program to visit his wife as frequently as he can.  Volunteer Transportation drivers pick him up, take him to the nursing home, and allow him to spend quality time with Helen.  He is very grateful for the service.  He recently reported with great excitement that he had witnessed Helen taking small, precarious steps with the assistance of a walker and the help of the facility’s medical staff.  It meant a lot for him to witness her progress.  His wife isn’t the same person that she used to be, but he is still there for her—unfaltering in his love and devotion.

He also uses the Hyde Shuttles to get to the Central Area Senior Center three times per week.  The socialization and community found at the Senior Center are important for Wasyl’s overall wellbeing.

The volunteer drivers who take Wasyl to his meaningful visits to his wife, the Hyde Shuttle drivers who provide him with transportation to invigorating activities and his friends at the Senior Center may not ever learn of the difficult past he has overcome.   Yet, they offer him support and companionship without expecting anything in return.  Wasyl’s life is full of many contrasting stories, juxtaposing dehumanizing instances of oppression with poignant moments of humanity.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Scheduler Ride Along

Donald Benedict, Lead Transportation Coordinator, has worked for Volunteer Transportation for 16 years (and Senior Services for 24 years).  On a normal weekday, he can be found answering phone lines, contacting volunteers, taking down ride requests, and completing all of the necessary work to ensure that King County seniors get the valuable transportation they need.  He recently had the rare opportunity, however, to escape from the confines of the office and tag along with Lynne McCaslin (volunteer driver) and Janine Parks (regular Volunteer Transportation client) as they completed the typical ride routine.  

Donald enjoyed his Ride Along experience.   He loved how naturally Lynne and Janine interacted with one another and gained even more respect for our volunteer drivers!  It was a great reminder of why he and the other Transportation Coordinators work so hard to make rides happen-- week after week, year after year.

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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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