With a cadre of volunteer drivers behind the wheel, JET Express safely gets older adults to a variety of places, whether it’s to the doctor’s office, the grocery store, a social outing, a house of worship or a volunteer commitment.
When JET started in 2008, volunteers provided 782 rides to older adults during its first year. Now a decade later, JET has provided more than 7,762 rides for more than 480 older adults, enabling their independence and keeping them connected with the community. During the decade, JET volunteers have taken over 29,000 rides traveling 300,000 miles. Several years ago, JET Express Plus was added, offering guaranteed rides for older adults with the rider only needing to provide one to two days’ notice. JET Express Plus rides are provided by dedicated JFS staff members, who drive adults in a comfortable seven-passenger van.
Many have come to appreciate the convenient service JET provides.
“I am so thankful to the volunteer drivers for making it possible for me to arrive at my doctor’s appointments on time,” said Barbara, a regular JET rider. “They are efficient, friendly and safe drivers. And especially important, I am able to join my friends and have a social life.”
Volunteer drivers like Molly House have also found the JET program meaningful. She has made personal connections with a number of the older adults she drives.
“It’s important to me,” House said. “It’s been a great way to meet friends and I feel like I have a community now, too. I love listening to them — they have so much to say.”
With the older adult population continuing to grow, there is increased demand for JET rides as well as volunteer drivers to take them.
“Volunteers are the heart of the JET Express program. They are the ones who are out in the community providing rides, connecting with older adults and helping them get where they need to go,” said Taly Friedman, director of Volunteer Engagement for JFS. “Not only are the volunteers making an instant impact, but the opportunity is very flexible. Volunteers choose what rides work for their schedule and they can take as many or as few rides that work for them.”
It’s easy to become a JET Express driver. Volunteer requirements include:
• Drivers must be between ages 21 and 78 (Note: Volunteers over 75 need doctor’s approval on a yearly basis) and have a current driver’s license
• Drivers must pass a background check and Motor Vehicle Report
• Drivers must possess a reliable car and hold current automobile insurance
Once a volunteer signs up, they attend a quick training session with JET volunteer staff-and they are ready to roll.
Volunteer drivers sign up for rides via an easy online system to drive when it works with their schedule. There are options to take one-way or round-trip rides, and most trips are less than 10 miles. Drivers can be reimbursed for their mileage or donate it back to the program.
Ron Altman recently joined JET as a volunteer driver after retiring. He read about the program in the newspaper. “I was looking for something social where you get immediate gratification,” Altman said. In addition to the flexibility it offers as a volunteer, Altman has found other benefits to being a JET driver. “I enjoy meeting the people,” he said. “Everyone is different. I like talking to them. Everyone has a story to tell.” Even the JET staff find the program rewarding.
“I can’t change the world, but I can help someone get to their medical appointment or out to lunch with a friend, and that makes my job wonderful,” said Sondra Atherly, JFS operations manager for Older Adult Programs who handles the JET calls and requests.
If you are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity with flexibility to meet your schedule, volunteer for JET Express by calling 913-730-1410 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.