This holiday season, and throughout the year, volunteers for Seniors Around Town (SAT) find joy providing transportation to Orinda seniors.
Cathy Goshorn, who coordinates rides for SAT, says the program has evolved since it was founded in 2005. While medical appointments take precedence, she notes, “We have learned that providing the variety of rides we do improves the social, emotional, mental and physical health of our seniors.”
The SAT program provides alternative transportation for Orinda seniors who are no longer able to drive and who may not qualify for the County Connection LINK system. Orinda volunteer drivers, using their own personal vehicles, provide rides to doctor appointments, errands and social events in the Lamorinda, Berkeley and Walnut Creek areas and offer no cost door-to-door transportation to all eligible Orinda senior residents.
According to Goshorn, the group (with 115 riders and 68 drivers) has seen an increase of actual rides over this past year from 736 to 1,122. She adds, “Many of our senior riders have lived in Orinda for years and have donated their time and treasure to the community. It is nice to be able to give back to these seniors by providing rides for them.”
Goshorn declares that many volunteer drivers notice working with the seniors has improved their own lives: “By listening to the stories of the seniors, they realize the seniors depend on them to improve the independence and quality of their lives.”
While the drivers encompass a variety of ages, from young parents to retired persons, several couples also enjoy volunteering.
“The holidays are a wonderful time for sharing at all levels. And to that end for us, we’ve always felt that one of the best gifts to receive is the ability to give back,” enthuses volunteer Jill Ellis. She affirms that when she and her husband Jim retired they wanted to find a way to support the Orinda community and found SAT “a perfect fit.” It helps us both fill our hearts, knowing that just a few hours of our time makes a big difference to someone else.”
Often riders share stories of their childhood, jobs and decades spent in Orinda with the drivers. The volunteers notice a common emotion of gratitude from the seniors, who with support of SAT drivers, can remain independent.
Volunteer Karen Burt articulates that she and her husband Robert volunteer for SAT because they want to help people: “We have enjoyed getting to know many of our riders. It is always special when they tell us about where they have lived previously and about their professional lives.”
Janet and Tom Nelson began volunteering a year ago. “We feel it is very important for everyone to give back to our community,” Janet exclaims before adding that it is “a relatively easy way and rewarding way to contribute.” Most importantly, Nelson calls the seniors she drives “good examples for all of us.”
Like many others who volunteer with SAT, Jay and Charlie Wingo sought a way to give back to the Orinda Community. Charlie sums up what the experience has meant: “We are aware that we are fortunate to live the life we live and wish to share our good fortune. This is a small way to achieve that goal. We get to interact with people who are invariably grateful for our efforts.” She concludes, “We get much more from the SAT program than we give. It is a wonderful grass roots organization that deserves to be supported proudly by all in our area.”
Marie and Bill Waterman, who have lived in Orinda for more than 30 years, have been a part of SAT for over eight years. Bill is an attorney who serves on the Orinda Association board of directors, and Marie works at the Orinda Association. The pair find the life stories the seniors share with them inspiring. Marie recounts how the experience connects with her own feelings about family and helping elders in her own: “Growing up in suburban New York, I drove my immigrant grandfather to appointments when he voluntarily gave up driving. I loved doing it.”
The volunteers agree that SAT asks very little of its volunteers while nevertheless impacting everyone involved tremendously. If Orindans are searching for the perfect gift for their community, contact SAT. Volunteer drivers are always needed.
Although the program depends on the generosity of its volunteer drivers, there are costs associated with administration. Individual donations, grants and fundraising to sustain and grow the program annually are always welcome. You may be paying it forward!
For more information, call (925)402-4506.