Somerset’s fantastic team of volunteer drivers have been thanked at two annual celebration events this month.
Nearly 200 dedicated drivers volunteer for Somerset County Council, providing transport for eligible non-emergency NHS patients and social care users, ranging from the elderly to young children.
Passengers describe the drivers as ‘lifesavers’ and a ‘godsend’ and this month they have been thanked by the County Council at events in Taunton and Yeovil.
Cllr David Fothergill, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Our volunteer drivers really are unsung heroes, giving up their time to help all kinds of people who are eligible for a lift, whether that’s taking a cancer patient to chemotherapy or dropping a child in care off at a contact visit with a family member.
“I want to take this opportunity to publicly say a very big thank you to them all for their hard work. It is appreciated and it does make a tremendous amount of difference in communities across Somerset.
“We are always in need of more drivers and would anyone who is interested to get in touch and find out more.”
The two ‘thank you’ events also gave drivers from all over the county the chance to meet up and socialise with fellow volunteers. A talk was given by Peter Wilson and Ross Perkins from Dementia Friends following a request from the drivers to know more about the condition and how to support the people they pick up who are living with the dementia. Refreshments and cakes were donated by Mark Country Catering for the events.
Here are some comments from drivers about what they enjoy about their volunteer role.
Keith Jones said: “Being a volunteer driver I meet some really interesting characters. The journey goes fast when you are talking. I like the fact that I am offering a service that they can’t get anywhere else. The people I drive are always very grateful.”
Pat Ryan said: “I am well and healthy and I wanted to do something for people who haven’t been as lucky as me. I feel too young to just do nothing and I want to be of help to people.”
The ageing population in Somerset means demand for transport is growing and more volunteer drivers are needed. If people have a few hours to spare and enjoy driving and helping people, please get in touch.
Successful recruits can claim back up to 50p per mile for expenses. Hours can be flexible and volunteer driving is a rewarding opportunity to get out and about, meet new people and provide a vital community service.
Anyone can be a volunteer driver – the only criteria is that you must be over 18, have use of your own four-door vehicle, and hold a full UK driving licence with no more than six points.
To find out more, please contact Somerset You Can Do by calling 01278 664180, or visit www.somerset.gov.uk/volunteering.
More quotes from volunteer drivers:
- Anthony Berthon has been a volunteer driver for three years, he said: “I meet some smashing people from all sorts of backgrounds. I like the flexibility of it and everyone is very friendly.”
- Tracy Shutler has just started as a volunteer driver, she said: “I have plenty of free time and I wanted to give something back to the community. I am looking forward to getting started and meeting people.”
- Mike Platt has been a volunteer driver for 15 years, he said: “Events like this are really helpful, particularly when learning about dementia. Lots of people I pick up have dementia so it is good to know how I can make their lives easier. It is also good to meet other volunteer drivers.”