By Hayley Crandall
Eras Senior Network is looking for 100 additional volunteer drivers for International Volunteer Day, the organization’s “Drive. Give. Serve.” program. Volunteers should sign up by Saturday, Dec. 5.
The program works to provide free essential services to seniors and people with disabilities in Milwaukee and Waukesha, such as grocery pick-up or transportation to appointments.
The group started seeing a decrease in volunteers during the early stages of the pandemic as many of the volunteers are considered high-risk.
Many of the volunteers are seniors themselves, Heather Uzowulu, development director at Eras Senior Network, explained, and have found the program has been a great way for them to be active in the community. But their health is of concern, too.
“When we’re dealing with the pandemic, they need to consider their health as well,” Uzowulu said.
The organization has already seen an increase in demand and with winter just around the corner, the need for safe and reliable access to transportation and deliveries is expected to continue to grow, according to the press release.
Althea Washington has been a volunteer driver in the Milwaukee city-area since May. She got involved after seeing the support needed from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, I was stunned by the enormity of the damage,” Washington said. “Seeing so many needs rise so quickly, it really made me want to provide support any way I could. I don’t work in health care, I don’t work in janitorial or childcare, or any of the frontline services, so I thought about ways I could join those that do.”
Washington described volunteering for the program as easy and well organized. she aids in the delivery of stock-boxes, which contain packaged food items like meat and dairy for clients. Everything is done safely and in a contactless drop-off manner, Washington said.
Sometimes, Washington is asked to deliver groceries, in which case she makes sure to wear a mask.
Drivers and clients help prevent the spread of COVID-19 through symptom screening, social distancing and masks, the press released outlined.
Volunteers can view the tasks on an online database, Washington explained, adding she appreciates how simple and orderly the program runs for volunteers.
“It’s really well organized,” Washington said. “In the information, you get everything you need: name, address, phone number, what the task is, et cetera. They make it really easy.”
Volunteering with the program has meant a lot to Washington. She enjoys assisting others in need and getting to know regulars.
“I can’t fix everything, but I can do my part to at least make some difference,” Washington said. “It’s that sense of balance in life. We provide for ourselves, but we also ensure that others around us are doing well.”
The community has been very appreciative of the service, Uzowulu said.
“We get a lot of really great thank you letters and phone calls,” Uzowulu said. “It’s neat to see how grateful the community is to have this.”
Qualifications for volunteering include being over the age of 18, being an insured driver with a vehicle, complying with a background check and simply possessing a desire to give back.
Volunteering is very flexible and done on participants’ time. There are no set shifts, Uzowulu said.
For more information or to inquire about volunteering, call 262-549-3348 or visit https://drivegiveserve.org/volunteer.