Heartfelt Destinations transportation program urgently needs volunteers | CraigDailyPress.com

Heartfelt Destinations transportation program urgently needs volunteers

Heartfelt Connections, a program of the Community Budget Center, is in urgent need of volunteers to drive local residents to medical appointments both in and out of town.
Amber Delay/Craig Daily Press

Like the many programs the Community Budget Center offers in the community, Heartfelt Destinations is one that impacts many local residents and helps them access doctor’s appointments. 

The program provides free transportation to medical appointments and nutritional needs for local residents who are homebound or don’t have access to personal transportation. Residents who are in need of transportation assistance can request rides to doctor’s appointments both locally and out of town. 

Program manager Kelli Poe, said that Heartfelt Connections is in desperate need of volunteer drivers to support the transportation program, otherwise the program may have to scale down the rides they provide. 

Poe first got started with Heartfelt Connections as a volunteer and has been overseeing the program as a paid staff member for about seven years. Because of a shortage of volunteer drivers, Poe said she is having to turn away client requests. 

Heartfelt Connections serves over 40 clients in Moffat County each year, and most of those clients have multiple appointments each month for which they need transportation. Poe said she estimated the program provides about 70 rides per month. 

Right now, Poe said she is taking most of the transportation requests herself. For the program to run optimally, Poe said she would need four volunteers who have the availability to do rides both in-town and out-of-town. 

While many of the client’s medical appointments are in-town, there are some that are in Grand Junction and Denver. Poe said that the out-of-town transportation requests are the ones that are suffering the most from the shortages of volunteer drivers. 

Poe said she has had to stop scheduling rides to Grand Junction and Denver because she just doesn’t have drivers to take the calls, and she can barely keep up with the in-town requests herself. 

The process to become a volunteer driver is pretty simple. Potential volunteers just need to fill out an application, which is available at the Community Budget Center. After the application is filled out, Poe will verify the information, contact the applicant and if everything looks good the volunteer will be ready to go. 

Volunteer drivers must have a reliable vehicle with current insurance, a clean driving record, and no felony convictions. This is strictly a volunteer position, so drivers aren’t paid for their time. But Heartfelt Destinations does reimburse for mileage. 

Poe said she is looking for people who can be generous with their time and want to give back to the community. Most importantly, Poe said, she needs people who are compassionate and friendly. 

“When clients go to the doctor sometimes they don’t get good news, and they may not be in a good mood, so we definitely need people who are compassionate,” Poe said. 

One of the benefits of volunteering for this, according to Poe, is that drivers over time build relationships with the clients. 

“We get to know them, and we cry with them when something happens,” Poe said. 

There is no specific training for this role, and the only thing that drivers are responsible for is getting the clients to and from their doctors appointments. Most of the clients are under 60 years old, and all of them must be able to walk and carry their own belongings. 

The time commitment for this volunteer role varies depending on the requests that Poe gets from week to week. She said she calls volunteers the night before to let them know what is coming up for the next day, and anything out of town will have a couple days’ notice. 

Volunteer drivers can anticipate contributing about 20 hours per month to this role, depending on the distance and length of time of the appointments. Poe said she tries to evenly distribute the in-town and out-of-town appointments for drivers, so they are not always taking the same assignments. 

Poe said she has to cancel requests if there are no drivers available, and she worries the program may have to reduce their services if they don’t get more volunteers. 

Applications to be a volunteer driver can be found at the Community Budget Center at 555 Yampa Ave. in downtown Craig.

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