February in West Michigan can be brutal. Cold temperatures, gloomy skies, and snow are typically in the forecast. February 25, 2022 was not a normal day, for many reasons. The sky was bright blue with barely a cloud to be seen. The temperature hinted at the coming spring.
A group began to gather in one of the Tanglewood Park conference rooms. Former AgeWell Services Senior Transportation Program Senior Manager Mark Evans stopped by for the first time since his retirement. Program staff and volunteers lingered around. Soon, Executive Director Kris Collee and Associate Director Rhonda Rosenberg joined the group. This “chance” meeting had been in the works for months but it was a surprise to Scott*.
Scott has volunteered with the Senior Transportation Program since October 2017. He is representative of all of the people who come to volunteer with AgeWell Services. They all have one thing in mind, serving some of the most vulnerable community members that might not otherwise have the resources to get to their medical appointments.
When COVID-19 emerged, the Senior Transportation Program did not stop operating, however, it did see a big reduction in volunteers which ultimately decreased the number of rides the program could offer. Scott and some other drivers continued serving when everything was shutting down and community members were sheltering in their homes.
Amidst this pandemic, Scott started having problems with his car. He would literally have to open the hood up before leaving his house to come to AgeWell Services to get it started and then pop the hood again when parked to turn his car off. When his shift was over, he had to do this same routine to go home. This went on for over six months! Eventually, the car did not start at all. The Senior Transportation Program team began to pick him up and take him home because they so valued his commitment to the program and the riders.
AgeWell Services has many very dedicated, generous volunteers and the organization is grateful for each one of them. Scott has endured many hardships in his life. He is a very proud, private man and feels extremely blessed to be where he is today and what he has in his life. Sure, things could have been better for him but, Scott has taken his circumstances and turned them into positives. He learned to be grateful for those things that he has in life.
Last year, AgeWell Services received funding from the Michigan Department of Transportation to support the purchase of new vehicles. This meant that older vehicles would be taken out of service. There had been many discussions about donating one of the cars that was going to be taken out of service to Scott. The time came when cars became available and the AgeWell Services administration team voted unanimously to support this gesture. The car was cleaned up and out. The keys were handed over to Scott in a surprise presentation on February 25, 2022.
Scott shared that he didn’t volunteer with the program for the vehicle or anything in return. He volunteers because, “people need it and it is something that I can do.” Scott is very grateful for this gift. He now has his independence back and he no longer has to depend on others to get him places.
*We are using a pseudonym to maintain anonymity per request.
About the Author
Kathy Daly is the AgeWell Services Senior Transportation Program Senior Manager.