I would like to take some time right now to tell you about my own experience with AgeWell Services of West Michigan. I started out as a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels in April of 2019. I absolutely loved delivering meals on my routes. There were so many grateful people each time I delivered. I apparently did a pretty decent job of it because the agency asked if I wanted to join the AgeWell Services team in July of 2019. I ended up starting out as the Receptionist in the Wellness Center. I love all of the people there and we all have so much fun keeping people active!
Then, as everyone knows, COVID hit in March 2020 and shut us all down. I am not one that likes to sit and do nothing, so when they asked if I would be willing to work in other departments while the Wellness Center was closed, I did not hesitate to say yes. Little did I know that this would lead to some of the best experiences of my life. I made fitness videos with Fran and Renee in the Wellness Center to post on Facebook so people could keep moving at home. I helped out in the kitchen to make and package the food. I helped at curbside events to give out food. I drove routes for Meals on Wheels again. I even got to drive the big vans for Meals on Wheels, too!
One day, my manager came to me and asked if I would be willing to drive for the Senior Medical Transportation Program. At that time so little was known about the transmission of the virus, we had so many people that were too afraid to drive others to their life-saving medical appointments. Since most regular and specialist doctor’s offices were not taking appointments, we were only driving persons that needed dialysis, cancer treatment, or life-threatening cardiac cases. The dialysis patients have to go three times per week just to survive…just to live! I agreed and got to do my ride along training and then started my regular driving shifts.
I enjoyed chatting with the participants as we were driving to and from their medical appointments. I got to know some of them more personally than others. We shared our lives with each other. Those social connections are so important for all of us. I got to learn about their lives and how much they appreciate the rides we give. Some of them would have no other way to get to these appointments. It is truly a saving grace for the people of our community.
I feel I truly touched some people’s lives. The best part, however, was how much they truly touched my life. Their gratitude and smiles made every minute worthwhile. Whether trudging through snow or getting soaked by rain or, on the really lucky days, sitting in the sunshine it was always a pleasure to drive people to where they needed to be. I feel lucky that instead of being laid off, I was able to provide such a wonderful service. The timing could not have been better, because the Directors asked me to become the Volunteer Coordinator. I now hold that position with pride and have the unique pleasure of knowing exactly what goes into and comes out of volunteering for our amazing organization!
I’m hoping that my story will inspire some to volunteer in our community, especially here with us here at AgeWell Services! There have been a few of our Senior Transportation drivers that needed to go off on medical leave recently. We also have our friends, “the snow birds,” that have gone south for the season. We could really use your help! Do you have some extra time on your hands? Has someone you know recently retired and been looking for something to do with their time? We have opportunities for you!
We utilize volunteers in several roles here at our agency including: Senior Transportation Drivers and Dispatchers, Meals on Wheels Drivers, Luncheon Center Volunteers, People to Take Blood Pressure for the Wellness Center, Café Hosts, Fitness Class Teachers, and more. There are volunteer opportunities in Muskegon, Oceana, and Ottawa counties. The greatest need right now is for Senior Transportation Drivers. All that is required to volunteer as a driver is a valid driver’s license and the ability to pass background checks. We would love to talk to you about what role will suit your talents best!
About the Author
Jessica Squires is the AgeWell Services Volunteer Coordinator.