“More Than a Taxi Driver”

If you no longer drive, how do you get to medical appointments? For many Central Ohio seniors, veterans, and cancer patients, the answer is the Community Transportation Program operated by The Ohio Buckeye Region of the American Red Cross.

“It was as easy as having a friend drive me, only I didn’t have to presume upon a friend,” says Roberta Gwilym. “The people who drove me were always very friendly.”

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure those friendly drivers are available. It all starts with a dedicated scheduler who responds to the many daily calls.  Another staffer plots the routes to ensure that people are dropped off and picked up in a timely way.

The driver has a list of the home addresses and destinations of the people on his route. He uses a smartphone to communicate with the dispatcher, who enters his whereabouts into a computer program.

Using smartphones and computer technology, the dispatcher tracks the progress of all the drivers in real time. Drivers also communicate traffic problems to the dispatcher, who passes this information on to the other drivers. Information about delayed and cancelled appointments is also communicated between drivers and the dispatcher.

The drivers are the “face” of the program. They are trained in CPR, first aid, and the use of an AED. They submit to background checks and take a variety of driving courses. Drivers also participate in shadowing experiences.

But it goes far beyond getting from Point A to Point B. One driver plays music familiar to his riders. Roberta appreciates “the fact that they’re willing to have conversations instead of just be like a taxi driver.”

Maintaining vehicles; training, scheduling and tracking drivers and passengers – it’s a complex process with many variables. The people behind the process make it all work. Administrative staff step in to help when a vehicle breaks down. The dispatcher juggles drivers and schedules. The coffee pot is always on. And the smiling faces of drivers make a routine trip to the doctor an enjoyable social event.

Do you like driving? Are you a “people person”? You might enjoy being a Community Transportation volunteer! To find out about this and other volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, visit  www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities

(photo: Dan Stumpf is a regular driver for the Community Transportation Program.)


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