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Volunteers sought for VON’s ‘friendly companion’ transportation program

Marilyn Donaldson and Stan Jones are two of the volunteer drivers for VON Tri-County’s Friendly Companion transportation program.
Marilyn Donaldson and Stan Jones are two of the volunteer drivers for VON Tri-County’s Friendly Companion transportation program. - Eric Bourque

Two of the people involved in VON Tri-County’s Friendly Companion transportation program say they have found the experience rewarding and they would encourage others to volunteer for it.

The program helps people who need a hand getting around because they are frail or they have a physical impairment affecting their ability to perform regular activities.

“You go with them to doctors’ appointments or to get groceries or whatever’s on their list to do,” said Marilyn Donaldson, one of the program’s volunteers.

Donaldson was retired, or semi-retired, when she saw a newspaper item about the program and decided to get involved. She attended a workshop to learn more about it and says being a volunteer driver has been great.

“I love helping people,” she said. “I love seeing the satisfaction (on their faces) of being able even just to get out or to be able to get their groceries or do things they couldn’t do (on their own).”

Like Donaldson, Stan Jones learned about the program and thought it would be good to get involved.

“It seemed doable, interesting, worthwhile, and that’s what it’s turned out to be,” Jones said.

The program runs Tuesday through Friday, although on Friday it’s just the morning.

Aside from knowing they’re helping people – people who otherwise might find it difficult or too costly to get out and do the things they need to do – Donaldson and Jones say the program has given them a chance to meet people and, in at least some cases, get to know them pretty well.

“It’s interesting to talk to them,” Jones said. “It’s been a really rich experience ... I learn something every time about someone’s life or about how to do things or about where things are in town.”

The VON would like to get more volunteer drivers, saying people can get involved without committing a great deal of time.

“It’s very versatile,” Donaldson said. “If you’re busy, you can say no. There’s no pressure.”

Sandra Hubbard-LeBlanc, VON-Tri-County’s program co-ordinator, community support services, knows people tend to busy, so volunteering can be a challenge, but she says they can get involved “even if all they have is a couple of hours a week. We’re very flexible. We can accommodate (their schedule).”

She says the program is important, given that it helps clients for whom transportation can be an issue. The VON office (902-742-4512) can provide more details about the program both to prospective users of the service and to those who might want to volunteer.

Jones used to volunteer for Rotary’s Meals on Wheels program and, while he says that’s a great program that provides an important service, he finds being part of the VON’s volunteer transportation program gives him a chance to spend more time with people and get to know them better.

Donaldson says the clients are grateful for the service.

“Most of them are so appreciative of what you’re doing for them,” she said.

And more of them likely would be using the service if there were more volunteer drivers providing it, hence the VON’s call for more people to get involved.

“We’re meeting part of the need,” Jones said. “I don’t think we’ll ever meet all of the need, but we’d like to meet more of the need.”

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