Interfaith Senior Services needs drivers

“You’ll have to go on the waiting list” isn’t the response Jamie Gavlenski wants to give when homebound seniors call asking for a ride to their doctor’s appointments.

But lately, it’s something she’s had to say a lot.

“It breaks my heart having to tell them they’ll have to go on a waiting list and there’s a minimum of a year wait,” said Gavlenski, who coordinates the Interfaith Senior Services program locally that pairs volunteers with seniors in need of transportation. “Due to age and cost of gas, a lot of long-term volunteer drivers have had to retire. We are desperate for more volunteer drivers.”

That’s something she’s working on. Gavlenski is on a recruiting campaign to find people across Hamilton County who can commit around eight hours a month to taking local homebound seniors to and from doctor’s appointments. Many of these seniors — particularly in the East Ridge, Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy communities — don’t qualify for CARTA’s Care-A-Van program, meaning there may not be anyone to take them where they need to go, Gavlenski said. Currently, her waiting list has around 60 names on it.

“For a lot of these seniors, going to the doctor is their only outing,” she said. “It may be the only time they leave their house each month.”

So in addition to helping seniors maintain their health, volunteers are often improving the seniors’ quality of life through socialization and the opportunity to take them on other quick errands like to the bank or the farmers market.

“Something as small as a fresh ear of corn or a fresh peach can really brighten someone’s day,” said Gavlenski.

Before volunteering, drivers receive training and are asked to complete a background check, which costs $50. Volunteers drive their own cars.

For more information call 265-2397.