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Community corner: Volunteer-powered transport

Dave Carvell, a volunteer driver.

By Drew Johnson

While I was writing the last edition of this column – an overview of changes to our food pantry – I realized that most people reading this probably don’t know about the other programs we have here at South County Community Services (SCCS). Since trying to get the word out about our services has been in our strategic plan for the past two years, I thought now would be a good time to write about them! I don’t have space to tell you about everything we do, but I will try to cover the main programs and how they work over the next few months. This month I’ll be covering transportation.

Our transportation program provides rides to doctors’ appointments and meetings with human service agencies to seniors and people with disabilities free of charge. The transportation program at SCCS is funded by the senior millage and is a very in-demand and necessary service — many of the people we give rides to have no other affordable option to get to their appointments, and the van is often booked solid.

Tamra Stafford is our transportation coordinator — she sets up rides for clients, schedules drivers, and makes sure that we are compliant with Metro documentation among many other things! When someone calls her, she needs to know their name, address, appointment time, and appointment location. If they are a new client, she will ask them to fill out an intake sheet to make sure we have all relevant medical information. Then she’ll look for a volunteer driver and make all the necessary arrangements.

Because we are giving rides to seniors and people with disabilities, we provide a little more TLC than a taxi might: One thing that our riders appreciate, for example, is that we generally wait for the rider to be done with their appointment — we do not leave and come back to pick up the person later. That makes many people feel more secure, since they are often going to an appointment alone and with no way of getting home on their own. But what riders most appreciate is our amazing drivers! We have a group of volunteer drivers who are always ready to help and who enjoy talking to riders as much as riders appreciate their help and company. We couldn’t do it without them!

A few other things to note:

We do not provide medical transportation or transport people who are not medically stable at the time of transport.

We are always looking for more volunteer drivers! Driving for us is very flexible. After the initial training, you’ll be emailed with a schedule every week and will be able to sign up for rides that Tamra has scheduled with clients. Many drivers try to pick riders who they know and enjoy talking to — I always like getting to know riders too, which is easy in our new, quiet van!

It is a good idea to schedule ahead of time—especially if you are a new client. We book up fast because the service is in such high demand!

Drew Johnson lives in Kalamazoo and is the Director at South County Community Services. He has a small quarter-acre homestead with chickens, bees, and hops (and more!), a wonderful wife, and three energetic children. He can be reached at 649-2901 or ajohnson@southcountycs.com

For more information on South County Community Services, please check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/southcountycs or visit southcountycs.com.

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