Volunteer drivers needed

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Whenever Madeline R. Jernigan needs a lift to doctor’s appointments at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, she knows who to call.

Since January, NetWorks, a creative partnership among the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging, United Way of Central Alabama and Positive Maturity, Inc.’s RSVP Program, has provided transportation to Shelby County seniors who are homebound or semi-homebound. The service is volunteer-driven.

Jernigan, 64, of Helena, learned of the service through the Area Agency on Aging and decided to give it a try. She fondly recalls the experience.

“I have a van that has a motorized wheelchair and lift so the [volunteer] would have to drive my van instead of their own vehicle,” Jernigan said.

“Oh my goodness, it’s great. He arrived right on time and he helped to get the wheelchair loaded. He drove us to the appointment and waited until we were finished, and on the way back we needed gas so he stopped for gas and filled me up,” Jernigan said.

The “he” Jernigan refers to is retiree Robert Gurley, 75, of Calera, who is one of two volunteer drivers. NetWorks is in short supply of volunteers and invites the community to attend a free volunteer driver training session on Oct. 8 and 9 from 8 a.m. to noon at the First Baptist Church of Alabaster.

“What we need are more volunteers scattered all over the county,” said Gurley, who’s been a volunteer driver since April. “There is time and cost involved but that’s what volunteering all about.”

Gurley added, “The most satisfaction I’ve gotten in the last 15 years is out of volunteering. “It just makes my heart soar when I do something good for somebody.”

On a national scale, volunteerism has declined while gas and food prices have soared. NetWorks Coordinator Ashley McGee has detected the trend. She hopes at least 15 people attend the training sessions. Volunteers are needed to transport seniors to doctor visits, grocery stores, pharmacies and other non-emergency trips.

“We have close to 30 seniors asking for this need,” McGee said. “We definitely need the community’s help right now.”

McGee said drivers must be at least 21-years-old and willing to participate in a background check. Drivers will be reimbursed as requested due to NetWork’s tight budget.

For more information, call 670-5770.