Mutual benefit for seniors, their rides
Council for Older Adults levy provides for programs such as the one that offers free transportation to appointments
In 2000, Martha Sampson was driving when another motorist fell asleep at the wheel, veered across lanes and struck her head-on.
Sampson's hip was severely injured and she lost one leg to the accident.
"It was very difficult to become disabled overnight," the Powell resident said. "One day you can walk, and the next day you can't walk any more."
The seemingly never-ending chain of doctor's appointments, physical-therapy sessions and checkups that were the result of her injuries could have become an overwhelming burden if not for a free Delaware County program that provides transportation to local seniors.
The program, organized by the Council for Older Adults of Delaware County, enlists volunteers to drive non-mobile residents age 60 and older to wherever they need to go.
Over the past decade, a team of volunteers has driven Sampson to three or four appointments each month.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it without them," Sampson said.
She added: "I wish there was something I could give back. I always tell them: I am just giving you my blessings."
Transportation is offered to current Council for Older Adults clients, as well as non-clients who live in Delaware County, with a minimum two weeks' notice.
The program is funded almost entirely through the county's senior services levy, which is up for renewal on the May 7 ballot.
In 2013, the council has processed 128 requests for transportation. About 16 county residents currently volunteer for the program.
The volunteers offer much more than transport. They also provide comfort, support and a friend to talk to, said Donna Meyer, associate director of communications for the Council for Older Adults.
Volunteers stay with clients until they return home and wait in the waiting room until appointments are finished.
Sampson has family in the area, but some seniors have little interaction except with volunteers, Meyer said.
"It provides a lot of emotional support for older adults who don't get that support anywhere else," she said.
Frank Jackson started volunteering for Council for Older Adults programs about five years ago.
The Sunbury resident said he was looking for a productive way to spend his time after retirement. Now he drives seniors to appointments up to six times each month, and volunteers with the county Meals on Wheels program, delivering warm meals to homebound seniors.
"I've been a very lucky individual. I've got good health and I've got a good-enough retirement program," Jackson said. "It's payback time."
He said volunteers get as much out of the experience as the seniors they serve.
"It's a lot of fun and you meet some very nice people," Jackson said. "Martha, for example, is a very brave individual and I enjoy taking her places.
"It's amazing what you can learn from people when you spend a few hours with them."
Volunteers undergo training before enlisting in the program, and can transport wheelchairs, walkers and other equipment.
The Council for Older Adults will ask voters May 7 to approve a five-year, 1.2-mill levy to replace a 0.9-mill levy that expires at the end of the year.
If passed, the levy will raise $9 million to help provide area senior citizens with in-home care, including warm-meal deliveries, medical transportation and adult day-care. It will cost county homeowners about $37 annually per $100,000 in home value -- about $9 more per year than the cost of the current levy.
Officials say it's necessary to retain current services for the county's rapidly growing senior population and won't fund any new programs.