Sparky the dragon gives volunteer drivers a Christmas surprise

Sparky the dragon, Somerset County Council’s mascot, surprised volunteer drivers and patients with mince pies and Christmas cheer at Taunton’s dialysis centre, last week.

Sparky thanked the drivers for their dedication and the valuable support they provide to non-emergency NHS patients and social care users, ranging from the elderly to young children.

Nearly 200 dedicated drivers volunteer for Somerset County Council.

Each volunteer drives on average 473 trips a year – that is over 2 million miles.

Michael has been a volunteer driver for four years, he said: “I enjoy being a volunteer driver. I like doing something to support my local community and helping people. You get to meet some really nice people and I have regulars that I get to know really well.”

Richard is a volunteer driver, he said: “I feel like I am putting something back into society. I love driving and meeting people.”

Robert, a patient, said: “Long may the volunteer driver scheme continue. It makes a huge difference to me. I don’t know what I’d do without their help.”

Heather, a patient, said: “The volunteer drivers are a godsend to me. It would be really hard for me to get to my dialysis appointments without a volunteer driver.”

Magdalena, a patient, said: “I am glad I have a volunteer driver to help me. I can’t drive after I have my dialysis appointment. The drivers are kind and we have a nice chat.”

Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Our volunteer drivers really do make a difference to people’s lives. They are the unsung heroes of our community. They give up their time to help all kinds of people who are eligible for a lift.

“We need more volunteer drivers to join the team and I encourage anyone who is interested to get in touch to find out more.”

Volunteer driving is a rewarding opportunity to get out and about, meet new people and provide a vital community service. 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.

Anyone can be a volunteer driver – the only criteria is that you must be over 18, have use of your own four-door vehicle, hold a full UK driving license and be able to commit at least one day a week to volunteering.

Personal assistants are also needed. They escort the children with the volunteer driver when needed to provide extra support.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer driver or personal assistant, please contact CSW by calling 01278 664180, or visit www.somerset.gov.uk/volunteering.