Helping Hands in need of helping hands
Isobel Wilding is escorted to a waiting Helping Hands vehicle Tuesday by staff driver Darren Dunkley. The non-profit service is looking for transportation volunteers. SARA ROSS - THE PACKET & TIMES
Isobel Wilding credits Orillia’s Helping Hands transportation service for allowing her to keep her independence.
For two-and-a-half years, Wilding, 89, has been escorted to and from doctors, appointments, dental check-ups and the hairdresser by the non-profit’s volunteer and staff drivers.
“It’s very vital because I’m not on a bus route and I’m not driving now. I gave my licence up because of my mobility,” Wilding said Tuesday.
The Orillian said she would have to move into a retirement home if Helping Hands was not available.
“I’ve always had my own home and I appreciate that,” Wilding said. “It means a lot to have my own place, do my own thing, eat when I want.”
Helping Hands, located on Memorial Avenue, is looking for volunteer drivers. The non-profit organization has about 50 volunteers in the transportation department.
“Half of them are away or off,” said Victoria Cescon, volunteer co-ordinator for Helping Hands.
The service is offered seven days a week. Currently, drivers are needed for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends. There is also a transportation demand for out-of-town medical appointments, Cescon said.
Helping Hands covers Orillia and the surrounding townships. Ideally, volunteers use their own vehicles and they are reimbursed for mileage, Cescon said.
Wheelchair transportation vehicles are provided when clients require them.
Helping Hands provides door-to-door transportation services.
“We do expect our volunteers to come right to the client’s residence, make sure they get into the car safely, get them seat-belted up and off to their destination and make sure they get in safely to their destination,” Cescon said.
On Tuesday, staff driver Darren Dunkley took Wilding to her hairdresser’s and home again.
“Darren carries my purse in for me. They always give you an elbow. They’re really, really good and I appreciate it so much,” Wilding said.
Dunkley began with Helping Hands as a volunteer driver in 2009.
“I wanted to help give back,” he said.
He became a staff driver two-and-a-half years ago.
He enjoys working with all of his clients.
“It means a lot to them when I get to know them and they get to know me. It’s like an extended family,” Dunkley said.
Potential volunteers must go through an initial interview process and complete a criminal background check.
Once cleared, they fill out application forms and provide references to Helping Hands.
Helping Hands tries to work around volunteers’ schedules, Cescon said.
Those interested in becoming a transportation volunteer can contact Cescon at 705-325-7861.