Volunteer driver, Tony Berthon from Taunton, shares the reasons why he loves his role and encourages more people to volunteer their time for this worthwhile cause.
Tony has been a volunteer driver for almost three years. Tony said: “I always felt comfortable and happy dealing with all sorts of people of different ages and abilities. When I heard about the Volunteer Driving Scheme I applied and have never looked back since.
The volunteer drivers scheme, run by Somerset County Council, provide transport for eligible non-emergency NHS patients and social care users, ranging from the elderly to young children. This includes trips to hospital for medical appointments, or transport to activity day centres.
Tony continued: “I thoroughly enjoy it. I really enjoy meeting a variety of people, helping them get to important appointments and giving something back to my local community.
“It can be very varied including driving dementia patients, Dialysis patients and people with many different medical conditions.
“You hear about their working lives and learn a lot, like the engineer who helped construct the M5. He told me about the excavating around Exeter and the fossilised hippo family they found. They are now in the museum of Exeter. Amazing stories.
“You have to have empathy with everyone you transport, be tactful and try and understand their point of view. Most will happily tell you their life stories and I suspect that they do not come into contact with a person they can chat to very often.
“I never tire of listening which helps no end. Sometimes (not often) you just listen for the whole journey.
“I would have no hesitation in recommending this very worthwhile voluntary “job”. If you enjoy listening and meeting people then do not hesitate, give it a go.”
Around 200 fantastic drivers across the county currently act as volunteers, but the ageing population in Somerset means demand for transport is growing and more volunteers are always needed.
Cllr David Fothergill, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Drivers like Tony make a real difference to people’s lives. I am really proud of the friendly and efficient service all our drivers provide.
“I would encourage anyone who has some spare time and enjoys driving to consider becoming a volunteer driver. It’s a great opportunity to help others, meet new people, improve your CV and provide a vital lifeline in your community.”
Anyone can be a volunteer – the only criteria is that drivers must be over 18, have use of their own four-door vehicle, and hold a full UK driving licence with no more than six points. Mileage expenses will be reimbursed at up to 50p per mile.
To find out more call 01278 664180, or visit www.somerset.gov.uk/volunteering.