My Volunteer Experience in Central Maine

Having recently retired from a long career in manufacturing, I was looking for worthwhile volunteer opportunities in my community which would keep me physically and mentally active. I had been active in our neighborhood community association for many years as the “roads commissioner”. I chaired a committee of 3 to 4 members managing the maintenance of several miles of camp roads in our development. While this is a very essential function and we are proud of the excellent condition of our camp road compared to other rural camp roads in our area, it did not offer much personal interaction and the time requirement for this task is minimal. I was used to working 12 hour shifts on a rotating basis as a manufacturing line Supervisor, having lots of daily, personal interactions in a fast paced environment.

Warming Shelter:
The homeless in our area are fortunate to live in a caring community that provides an excellent homeless shelter. While they are always looking for volunteers to work overnight at the Shelter, I decided that my days of working “shifts” and staying up all night were over. Shift work eventually takes a toll on your health, so I declined this opportunity. Our local United Way saw a need to provide a warm, inviting place for many of the homeless clients to spend their days (when the homeless shelter is closed) during our cold, Maine winter months. I have volunteered several shifts at the Warming Shelter and the response from our community has been excellent. We have 25 or so clients over the course of the day use the facility which has a nice large screen TV, comfortable sofas, game tables, and play area for youngsters. Volunteer response had been so good that only a few open shifts were available to be covered.

Volunteer Driver:
Our county has a “community Action Program” that among other services, provides transportation to needy people, the elderly and others that are in need of this service. They have a fleet of buses with professional drivers who transport wheelchair bound patients and larger groups, but they utilize volunteer drivers to transport one or two individuals at a time in their personal vehicles. Since I did not want another full time job and not having a bus endorsement, I chose to apply as a “Volunteer Driver”. The lengthy application process includes a criminal background check, drivers record check, employment history check, as well as character reference checks. It was the longest application I had ever filled out and approval took several months.

I found that once I was accepted into this program that I could drive as many days a week as I wanted, as there is more demand for this service than there are drivers. I have had quite a variety of clients ranging in age from infants to the elderly, and many of these individuals are disabled and require assistance. Some folks are quite willing to share their interesting stories. I thanked the man who shared with me that he had lost his license for 5 years. He also said he was bipolar and “loses it” when things don’t go his way, for instance if his driver is late. Fortunately for me I was early for this client. He finished with the statement that he was going to jail tomorrow for 6 months, so I will not be seeing him again for awhile. Why he was going to jail he did not say, and I did not ask, but I can imagine it might be related to his mental illness!!

While the action program reimburses a small amount for “mileage”, this does little more than cover the cost of gas and tires. Since you can easily put 70,000 miles a year on your personal vehicle if you do this 5 days per week, it is easy to see that this is going to end up costing you a replacement vehicle in a couple of years. They are always looking for volunteers to do this as people do realize eventually that it is costing them too much in vehicle costs. While I see that I will not be able to do this long term, it has been interesting and a real eye opener to see the plight of the truly neediest portion of our population. You begin to understand that a portion of our population is only one paycheck away from being homeless and many of these people cannot provide transportation for themselves for a variety of reasons: mental or physical disabilities, lack of a vehicle, or lack of a driver’s license. In a rural county in a rural state, with essentially no public transportation, fulfilling this need is essential for the well being of our clients.

I would highly recommend being a Volunteer Driver if you truly like people and enjoy driving. It helps in being organized and planning ahead as there are times when the schedule may call for you to be in two places at once and you have to prioritize and communicate with your clients why you must pick them up early for their appointment. It is better to have one person early for their appointment than to make someone late.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *