Jul 13, 2012 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The volunteer drivers of CatFISH have earned quite a following in Camillus.
Thelma “T” Schroeder, of Scott Avenue, calls them “her angels.”
“I would be lost without them,” said Schroeder, who depends on CatFISH – or Camillus Area Transport/Friends in Service Here – for rides to doctor’s appointments every few weeks.
She calls herself one of the program’s “frequent fliers.”
“They are my angels. They’ve never, ever let me down,” she said.
CatFISH is in its sixth year of helping transport town of Camillus seniors to medical and dental appointments. Rides are offered at no cost to seniors, though program director Tricia Bacon said donations are welcome, “and clients have been very generous.”
“I’m always sending donations,” Schroeder said. “I don’t ever want them to leave.”
The program also receives funding from the town and office support from PEACE, Inc., though it couldn’t exist without the efforts of 40 volunteer drivers and dispatchers, Bacon said.
One of those volunteers is CatFISH board president Helen Moore. Moore retired as manager of bank operations for M&T Bank in Syracuse in 2005.
“I volunteer because, well, first of all, I meet the nicest people,” she said. “Plus I’m able to feel that I’m giving back to the community – helping people to stay independent in their homes.”
She said volunteering with CatFISH is not a big time commitment, as she is called in to drive about “two or three times a month.” She’s also one of eight dispatchers, “so I’m only dispatching every six or eight weeks,” she said.
But those hours add up. Last year, CatFISH volunteers combined to give 429 hours of their time providing 236 rides to Camillus seniors, Bacon said.
“Our numbers have been fairly consistent over the years,” she said. “The need is steady throughout the county. When seniors are asked about the biggest challenges facing them today, transportation is always among the top concerns.”
To continue to meet that need in Camillus, CatFISH is seeking more volunteers. Bacon said volunteers need only a valid driver’s license, a vehicle “and a big heart.” Rides are provided Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and volunteers are scheduled to drive one day each month, or more if they’re willing.
Those interested in helping out can call 672-5820.
Camillus seniors in need of a ride to medical or dental appointments can reach CatFISH by calling 701-5949 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Riders must be ambulatory, as CatFISH does not have the means to accommodate seniors in wheelchairs, Bacon said.
Rooted in generosity
Moore has been volunteering with CatFISH for five and a half years. She started just a few months after the program was founded.
“Before we started there was a group of about six or eight people who met with Mary Ann Coogan, the town supervisor,” she said. “And Mary Ann recognized there was a need for this service.”
Moore remembers well the first time she was called to give Schroeder a ride.
“I made a turn, I went over a curb and I got a flat tire,” she said.
She said the tire was “flatter than a pancake.”
“Now here I am on the way to pick up a client — and thank god I had allowed five or ten extra minutes. So I had a little time to spare,” she said.
What happened next has come to define CatFISH: Moore called on a friend, and her friend delivered.
Moore called Martha, who lived near Shove Park and also drove for CatFISH, and asked for help. She recalled Martha saying, “Well I’m not even dressed yet, but I’ll throw on some clothes and I’ll come over.”
“So I called Thelma,” Moore said. “I said, ‘Thelma, if I’m a minute or two late, don’t be nervous.’
“Well Martha came over and we picked up Thelma for her appointment, and away we went.”
Ned Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.