More volunteer drivers wanted

Organizers of a new volunteer driver program first announced back in February say the program is getting off the ground, but they are looking for more people to get involved.
Davida Sheppard, treasurer of the volunteer driver program, said Monday that since the program was announced at the “Community Chest” fundraiser dinner last month, she and program co-ordinator Evelyn Rawn have been contacted by about eight district residents wanting to help transport people needing medical services but not able to drive themselves.
“We’d like to operate with a dozen volunteers, due to the fact not everyone’s going to be available to drive all the time,” noted Sheppard.
Those who’ve stepped forward, as well as anyone else interested in becoming a volunteer driver, can get a taste of what the job entails at a training seminar slated for Tuesday, April 13 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at La Place Rendez-Vous.
Lunch will be provided.
“At least half of the seminar is dedicated to how to treat people who are ill,” said Sheppard. “For instance, the patients may not want to talk about their illness. If so, don’t ask them about it.
“If they want to talk, be willing to listen,” she added.
The seminar will be led by Kiri Butter of the Thunder Bay chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society as well as another experienced volunteer driver from Thunder Bay.
Sheppard said the workshop also will go over the policies of being a volunteer driver, such as how to fill out travel forms for mileage.
“We also want to leave a lot of time for questions and answers. For instance, for all the years they’ve been doing the volunteer driver program in the Thunder Bay area, no one’s gotten sick in a vehicle.
“That’s something people might want to know,” she remarked.
“Another thing people will want to know is volunteer drivers won’t be called in the middle of the night, or at the last-minute. We’re not a cab company,” stressed Sheppard.
“Patients often know well in advance when their appointments for treatment will be, and we can schedule for that.”
Sheppard said everyone is welcome to attend the free seminar to find out what the volunteer driver program is all about.
“Some people may come to the seminar and find it’s more than they can handle,” she noted. “If 20 people came out, that would be great, because not necessarily everyone may want to go through with it.”
The volunteer driver program, formed by the local chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society and “Community Chest,” and funded by a grant from the Moffat Family Fund, was struck in response to the fact many people throughout the district don’t have the ability or means to transport themselves or their loved ones to and from a point of care for anything from chemotherapy to hemodialysis.
A volunteer driver’s job is to pick up patients from their homes and take them to the local hospital or regional treatment centre for specialized care. When their treatment is over, the driver will make sure to get them home safely.
“A driver may only have to transport someone eight or 10 blocks, or from somewhere within the district,” said Sheppard, noting five of the eight people who’ve expressed interest in being volunteers drivers are from out of town.
Those who wish to become volunteer drivers not only will receive specific training sessions to help them feel comfortable lending a hand, as well as financial reimbursement to cover their travel expenses, but the satisfaction of helping to provide support services for families and friends living with a life-threatening illness.
To find out more about the program, or to register for the workshop, call Sheppard (274-4997) or Rawn (274-9462).