Driving to work, going to the doctor or just running errands. So many of us use our cars on a daily basis. But what if that was taken away?
“I was forced to give up driving because of macular degeneration,” 73-year-old Ben Burns of Clarkston says.
Burns can’t drive because of a condition that causes severe vision loss. He depends on Interlink’s volunteer drivers at least twice a week to get to his multiple doctor’s appointments.
“To me they’re like earth angels,” Burns says. “They help me out on many tasks and many doctors appointments that I have in the LC Valley.”
John Hendrickson of Lewiston has been driving with Interlink for over 10 years and volunteers five days a week from October to May.
“Just helping people out who can’t help themselves,” he said.
He says enjoys getting to know his passengers, the Valley’s elderly or disabled.
“I like to talk, tell them where I’m from, find out where they’re from,” Hendrickson says.
In 2017, volunteers drove over 65,000 miles giving rides. That’s roughly the same distance as driving around the world twice.
But Interlink’s free transportation service is more than just giving rides. It is a way to help senior and disabled citizens stay healthy both emotionally and mentally.
“Them being shut away from everything in life,” says Interlink Program Assistant Jackie Wahl. “And day after day if they can’t get out of their home, they’re just sitting there alone.”
“For the most part they’re talkative cause they don’t get to talk to people,” Hendrickson says.
And isolation can lead to severe consequences in the LC Valley.
“I understand our high rates of suicide,” Wahl says. “There’s a high percentage in the younger group but we also have a high percentage of elders in that category.”
That’s why the non-profit is always looking for more volunteers to join them in their crucial work.
“I’m very grateful for their service,” Burns says.
For anyone who needs help from Interlink, just contact them 48 hours in advance. Passengers in need and anyone interested in volunteering can call them at 509-751-9143 or go to interlinkvolunteers.org.