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Volunteer Driver

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Some drivers make volunteer firefighter John Weaver shake his head in disbelief. Like, for example, the driver who decided to race him while he was driving his fire truck to a fire.

"It can be stressful," says Weaver.

Volunteer drivers are needed for all kinds of activities and organizations. They do anything from driving fire trucks to driving seniors to medical appointments.

Driving positions require that you have driving skills and qualifications. Also, as Weaver's story shows, you have to be able to handle stress and the unexpected, without going off the road.

Some positions require, in addition to a driver's license, that you have specific training. Some may need you to provide your own vehicle.

Volunteer drivers are consistently in demand. They have a great opportunity to help people.

"We have 60 volunteer drivers currently and we serve 700 people at our agency," says Ilona Douglas. She is the coordinator of volunteers for Saanich Volunteer Services.

"Driving is one of the largest services our agency offers. Mostly, our drivers take seniors to medical appointments, such as the dentist or physiotherapy appointments. We get over 200 driver requests per month."

The demand is so large that not everyone can get a free ride. For example, if someone is able to take the bus, Douglas's agency will not provide a volunteer driver.

Another social services agency that provides volunteer drivers, the James Bay Community Project, also has a great demand for drivers.

"It's a steady, ongoing demand," says volunteer coordinator Catriona Campbell. "There are times we can't fill the need."

Campbell says volunteer drivers can make a big impact on the lives of their passengers.

She remembers how one elderly client who was very depressed and isolated followed through on suggestions from her volunteer driver to reach out to relatives who she hadn't been in touch with.

"The next thing we knew was that the relatives took her under their wing and had her over for Christmas and other holidays. She's a totally different person from the depressed person I saw when she first came in here," says Campbell.

Nadine Ozubko has been a volunteer driver for three years. Most of her assignments involve taking elderly passengers to appointments.

"They [her passengers] have a lot of wisdom and knowledge and stories to tell. You have to be a good listener. There's more to it than just driving," says Ozubko.

"You have to help these people. One person I picked up at the hospital lost control of her bladder on the way home. She was embarrassed. I took her home and helped her put everything in the wash."

Ozubko decided to become a volunteer driver after she saw an ad on TV seeking volunteer drivers. She thought driving was a perfect way for her to get to know the community to which she had recently moved.

The organization she volunteers for, Saanich Volunteer Services, has 60 volunteer drivers registered.

Ozubko, 28, says more young people should get involved as volunteer drivers. She says she is the only driver for her organization under 40.

"A lot of my passengers are elderly, and they just seem to perk up when they have a younger driver," says Ozubko.

Jim Flewwelling drives teenagers to church events in a van, and sometimes even in a 72-passenger bus.

Flewwelling has been driving as a volunteer for over 35 years. He remembers one road trip where going up a hill, he heard a loud crunch in the transmission. He managed to get the bus off the road to safety. Then he put on his overalls, took out his tools, went under the bus and fixed the problem.

Luckily, in his day job Flewwelling is a mechanic for school buses. His mechanical skills were especially valuable on that road trip.

Volunteer driving is one part of working as a volunteer firefighter. Weaver, who has been a volunteer firefighter for 15 years, says there are different levels of training required. Driver training consists of about 60 hours at his fire department.

"It can be tricky because the streets are real narrow and there are often cars on both sides. Fire trucks are pretty big vehicles to be maneuvering through streets," explains Weaver.

"Plus, you are responsible for the safety of everyone [the other firefighters] on the truck."

How to Get Involved

Weaver says that fire departments are often hiring volunteers, although you should be aware that driving is just one part of the job of a volunteer firefighter.

Weaver's fire department is currently trying to recruit college students by offering them free housing in return for a volunteer commitment. Volunteers are expected to work a four-hour shift once in a while, says Weaver.

Another good way to get involved as a volunteer driver is to approach volunteer or social service agencies in your community to see if they offer a volunteer driving program. Chances are, if they offer the service, they have an ongoing need for new volunteers.


American Red Cross
This organization often looks for driver volunteers

Senior Services
This group needs volunteer drivers

How to Implement a Community-Based Designated Driver Program
Learn how to help your community

Want to Be a Volunteer Driver?
This site has info on the types of transportation people need volunteer drivers for

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