SNAP’S VOLUNTEER DRIVER PROGRAM CONNECTS NEIGHBORS DURING PANDEMIC
“I have a lot of medical and dental appointments ahead of me,” says Gloria. “I’ll be a new person someday.”
Gloria began utilizing SNAP’s community health worker-led Ride to Health transportation service over a year ago. In Fall 2020, SNAP launched a new transportation program called “Neighbors on the Go,” which utilizes volunteer drivers to transport vulnerable clients to medical appointments. Gloria was a prime candidate to receive services through this program; she continued her use of SNAP’s transportation services through Neighbors on the Go (NOTG).
This program began service during the pandemic, cognizant that there are fewer options available to neighbors who cannot transport themselves to medical appointments. Utilizing masks, gloves, plastic barriers, and frequent sanitation, the NOTG program worked to ensure it provides safe and hygienic transport.
Without this program, Gloria would be unable to attend her litany of medical appointments.
“I’m using a walker for the rest of my life,” says Gloria. “And I can’t drive because of my cataracts. I would not be able to do all of this, frankly.”
Assisting Gloria in going to her appointments is one of NOTG’s first volunteers, Susan.
Since starting as a volunteer last Fall, Susan has had the opportunity to transport six different clients to their medical appointments; three of those clients were repeat clients, with Gloria being one of them
“Susan knows all of the hospitals. She knows where all the doctors’ offices are. She takes all the stress away,” says Gloria. “I just love her.”
What Gloria didn’t realize is that it was because of NOTG that Susan became so adept at navigating the city. Susan moved to Spokane six years ago to enjoy her retirement with her husband, and she is still learning the roads. Susan would often drive her mom to medical appointments prior to joining the NOTG team.
“I was not able to see my mother during the pandemic,” says Susan. “I thought the volunteer driver program would be a good way to keep busy.
”As a new person to Spokane, the appointments and residence locations have allowed me to see areas of Spokane I otherwise wouldn’t have seen,” says Susan.
Susan cherishes her relationship with Gloria, noting that they have bonded over their shared background in secretarial work before retirement
“I have a very good rapport with Gloria,” says Susan. “I just love getting to be a point of comfort to our clients.”
Not every rider is as eager to engage as Gloria. Susan recounts one rider was reluctant to talk, so they rode in silence. When there are longer appointments where Susan needs to wait while the riders are visiting their doctor, Susan uses this time to indulge in needlepoint.
“The riders are really happy that I wait for them,” Susan says. “It’s really reassuring to them.”
The relationship between Gloria and Susan is a testament to the NOGT program. Designed to provide qualifying, prescreened riders with safe and reliable transportation to medical appointments, the intention of NOGT is symbiosis.
“We hope our drivers get as much out of the program as our riders,” says Garrett Havens, NOGT Program Manager. “I genuinely think NOGT provides a productive outlet for compassionate folks who want to connect to their community.”
This is the very solace that Susan has found through this program.
“It’s something I enjoy doing, getting out of the house and running around,” says Susan. “I’ve found it really nice to talk to folks, take them to appointments, and just be there when they want to talk.”
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering as a driver for SNAP’s Neighbors on the Go, you may visit www.snapwa.org/driver.