Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG) is making an urgent call for volunteer drivers to transport local seniors.
The Better at Home Transportation service pairs volunteer drivers with seniors, who live independently, to help them stay connected with their community, such as going to medical appointments, community events, and visits to family members. Fees are based on a sliding scale, so those with lower incomes pay less.
Services were halted temporarily during the pandemic, but they started back up again during the initial vaccine roll-out, and demand has been rising since.
“Right now, we’re struggling to keep up,” said Carol Dickson, RCRG's manager of seniors community support services. “Having additional volunteers would make a huge difference.”
Back in 2019, at the peak of demand for the service, RCRG had 42 drivers in total. With only 11 drivers at the moment, it's hoping to recruit more volunteers to meet the rising demand.
"The more drivers we have, the better.
"It gives us the flexibility not only to schedule rides when seniors need them, but also to match clients with volunteers they know, as the social interaction and relationships are an important part of the service," explained Ryan Luetzen, manager of resource development & communications.
And this is exactly the case for Richmond senior Gail, who is one of many users of the service.
Gail lives alone and she has multiple health conditions. She also uses a walker.
Gail worries about getting on and off buses with her walker, and the cost of taking a cab to and from Vancouver for her frequent medical appointments is significant. With the help of Arvind Sharma, a volunteer driver who brings her to medical appointments, she doesn't have to worry about folding up her walker herself.
“I know I’ll be comfortable,” said Gail. “I know I’ll be taken care of.”
“To have someone’s attention for 45 minutes is a highlight of my day,” she said.
Volunteers can set their own schedules, and they are reimbursed for gas expenses incurred during rides.