More drivers needed to keep up with demand at Community Care

By Lisa Hart

Maureen Jarvis, a volunteer driver for Community Care. Photo: Sienna Frost.

“When my feet hit the ground each morning, I know I have a purpose for the day, and it just brings me pure joy,” says Maureen Jarvis. That purpose is her work as a volunteer driver for Community Care — and the local organization needs more people like her.

According to Jordan Prosper, Community Care’s director of support services, volunteer drivers for Community Care of Kawartha Lakes provided about 27,000 rides last year. That leaves them fulfilling an average of 500 or more requests each week for the individualized, door-to-door service they provide for older adults and some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

“Our clients have a variety of barriers in accessing services, and we want to make sure affordable transportation is not one of those barriers,” explains Prosper.

“There are so many people who either have no family, or none nearby, who don’t want to rely on friends,” Jarvis adds. “This service gives them a sense of independence.”

Community Care is accepting applications for volunteers willing to provide transportation service in their own vehicles. “We have clients from all demographics,” says Renee Fitzgerald, the organization’s manager of transportation services. “We like to think there’s a good match for everyone.”

A current class G driver’s licence is the essential requirement for this volunteer position, but Community Care also values qualities like good communication skills, sound judgement and flexibility. There is no special car insurance or first aid training required. Jarvis, who has received compliments from clients about her good driving, highlights the need for considerate volunteer drivers who are cautious when they have clients in the vehicle.

While the service is offered seven days a week, volunteers can specify their availability. Schedules are customized based on driver preference. Volunteers can choose to take only in-town calls or be open to accepting longer distance trips to places such as Toronto and Oshawa. Drivers receive compensation for their mileage. Jarvis believes not everything has to be about money and feels that the heartfelt appreciation she receives from clients and sometimes a client’s family is “worth more than a pot of gold.”

She explains that she finds it hard not to form a bond with her clients. She enjoys talking with the people she drives, learning what is happening throughout the area from them and hearing stories of local history from the seniors.

Prosper says the volunteer drivers are compassionate, caring people who want to help those in need — and that’s what Community Care is looking for in a volunteer driver, he says.

Jarvis says she has loved to drive ever since she first got her licence at the age of 16. She was the principal driver in her family as well as being a popular choice as a driver of choice for friends, kids and grandkids. She looks for any excuse to get behind the wheel. A volunteer with Community Care for 13 years, Jarvis became a driver nine years ago — something she always wanted to do — and says she will continue in the position for as long as she can be of help. The emotion is unmistakable as she explains that her volunteer work is her way of caring for her own loved ones who are no longer here.

Volunteer driver training begins with Fitzgerald and one of Community Care’s transportation coordinators. Staff take volunteers through the provided handbook, which outlines the duties of a driver, and discuss different scenarios. They also review what to expect on a drive with a client so new volunteers feel prepared. “Volunteers are given a light schedule to start,” says Fitzgerald. “And staff are on hand to assist.”

Community Care has continued to provide its transport service throughout the ups and downs of the pandemic. As always, the drivers had a choice about volunteering, depending on their comfort level with the ever-evolving situation. For Jarvis, a self-proclaimed people person, the choice was easy — she was willing to follow whatever protocols were necessary to keep going. She never lost sight of the fact that not everyone had a choice during the pandemic; people still needed to get to medical appointments, some for life-saving cancer treatments or dialysis. Clients tell Jarvis they don’t know what they would do without the service.

Jarvis says for her, volunteering to drive is the best way to help the citizens of Kawartha Lakes, even if it is only in-town trips to take clients to do their shopping. She hopes that someday if she needs help, there will be someone there to give it to her.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Community Care of Kawartha Lakes can visit or call 705-324-7323 to learn how to apply as a driver or explore other volunteer opportunities with the organization.

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