Volunteerism Strong in Orinda
Volunteerism is at the heart of our community, and it’s only fitting The Orinda Association (OA) celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Volunteer Center with a shout-out to local residents, many of whom go above and beyond to help others.
During this holiday season, over 600 coats were donated to the One Warm Coat program with Gail McIntyre purchasing $1,300 worth of new coats at Costco to donate and delivering 25 bags of coats to a women’s shelter in Concord. This year’s program featured a collaboration among the OA, Orinda’s Parks and Rec Department and the Orinda Teen Advisory Council. The teens picked up the coats from the OA office, sorted, counted and bagged them. Donations went to three different agancies. Cathy Goshorn, who runs the OA’s Seniors Around Town program (SAT), also took 50 coats to a homeless encampment in Berkeley.
Goshorn recalled one encounter: “She was wearing only a blanket with nothing on underneath. This was when it was so cold. It was heartbreaking to see. I helped her pick out a long, warm coat, and she was beside herself. She was so happy.”
And speaking of SAT, its slogan “It’s more than a ride” has certainly been true this past year. SAT drivers and riders often become friends as they share life experiences driving to doctor offices, running errands to various places and undertaking other trips. Driver Dan Slaven, for example, upon discovering his rider was moving soon, showed up to help him move as well as build bookshelves for his new home at Orinda Senior Village.
With COVID and its many variants still raging over the holidays, the annual holiday luncheon for drivers and riders was cancelled, but that didn’t stop SAT and its drivers from spreading holiday cheer. The group put together and delivered lovely holiday packages to riders, with many being asked in for tea and cookies and a nice long chat.
According to Goshorn, SAT is just as satisfying for drivers as for riders.
“I can’t recall how many times I’ve had drivers tell me how grateful they are to be in the program, how fulfilling it is to them,” she said. “When you give, you get.”
When the pandemic first started and everyone was in lockdown, drivers could no longer take our riders to various appointments. Instead, they volunteered to shop for seniors and deliver groceries to their homes. This has continued with 15 to 20 volunteers still shopping for homebound seniors in addition to driving other seniors to medical appointments.
Our SAT drivers’ generosity extends beyond the riders themselves. Frank Chooi was a SAT rider for six years, requiring rides to dialysis in Walnut Creek three-times a week. Many drivers became close to him and his daughter Liza, who had quit high school to care for him. One driver, Linda Martin, helped teach Liza to drive when she became of age. When Frank died Dec. 30, Liza was bereft. She had no family outside of Singapore and called the SAT office in tears. Goshorn helped Liza gather her father’s belongings from the skilled nursing facility where he died and put an email out to the drivers.
“We had so many respond – wanting to support Liza in a variety of ways,” said Goshorn. “One driver helped her celebrate her 22nd birthday, which happened just a few weeks after her father’s death. The drivers have become her community, giving her needed emotional support and friendship.”
The OA would also like to thank those who have dropped off eyeglasses for the Lions Club recycling program and for those who have accessed our online list of volunteer positions elsewhere in the community. Thanks also go to those who volunteered for the Fourth of July parade and the Classic Car Show. Without your help, these events would never happen.
Together we can make a difference for so many people. For information about how you can volunteer, call 925.254.0800 or visit http://www.orindaassociation.org. For information on the SAT program, call 925.402.4506.