Al and Gloria Ash of Marion are among a group of volunteers in the county who drive senior citizens to doctor appointments and other appointments, and they say it never feels like a burden.
“We enjoy doing this,” Gloria Ash said.
They got involved as volunteers with the county Department on Aging’s transportation program about eight years ago when Al Ash worked at Hilltop Manor, and it has been an excellent way to get to know people, they said.
One of the people they have gotten to know is Maxine Barton of Lincolnville. Barton has macular degeneration and goes to McPherson regularly to see a doctor about it. The treatments leave her unable to see well enough to drive home.
“I can see to get over there, but I can’t see to get back,” she said.
Barton said she has enjoyed getting to know the Ashes, and that she couldn’t ask for better people to drive her to her doctor appointments.
Al Ash said they typically help at least once a month. Other major volunteers in the program include Fred Puttroff, Gary and Karen Chaput, and Larry Smith.
Lanell Hett, transportation coordinator for the Department on Aging, said there are a handful of other volunteers who help occasionally, and their contributions are just as important because they help when nobody else can.
Barton said she was unsure what she would do if the county didn’t have the program. She has friends who could give her a ride if needed, but she wouldn’t want to impose.
“You hate to ask your friends to do this,” she said.
Barton said she has a sister in Ohio who wishes a program like this was available in her area, but she wishes more senior citizens locally knew about it. She recently was able to inform a friend who could use the service and was unaware of it, and she tries to spread the word at weekly Lincolnville senior meetings, but there are still people who are unaware, she said.
With many of the appointments volunteers take seniors to out of the county, trips can take a while. Gloria Ash said she once had a trip that took seven hours because a person had a medical emergency while at a doctor appointment. Reading, shopping, and getting a meal are good ways for volunteers to pass the time while a senior is at an appointment, she said.
Sometimes the volunteers are able to go on educational trips as well. Al Ash said he once drove a group from Burns to a tour of a Jewish temple in Wichita, which he said was an interesting experience.
“When you get out and volunteer, you learn so much and meet so many people,” he said. “When you help people, you get so much more back.”
The county program began in 1975 or 1976 when the county received a grant for a van from the American Red Cross, but the Hillsboro and Marion senior centers already had similar programs in place.
All of the drivers are volunteers, and the program is available to any senior citizen in the county. The county does suggest a contribution based on the mileage of a trip, but there is no required fee, Hett said.
Volunteers are available Monday through Friday except on county holidays, but at least 24 hours notice is needed to arrange transportation, she said. Transportation isn’t available for chemotherapy or dialysis because of the high frequency of such appointments, she added.
To arrange transportation, call the Department on Aging at (620) 382-3580 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program also is always looking for new volunteers.