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CatFISH volunteer drivers help Camillus seniors stay independent in their homes

CatFISH volunteer and board president Helen Moore (right) helps Thelma “T” Schroeder into her car. Schroeder calls herself one of the program’s “frequent fliers.”

CatFISH volunteer and board president Helen Moore (right) helps Thelma “T” Schroeder into her car. Schroeder calls herself one of the program’s “frequent fliers.” Photo by Ned Campbell.

— 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.”

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