John Ball is April’s Volunteer of the Month and is one of 324 volunteers who donated 6,597 hours of their time to JFS last year!
John joined the JetExpress volunteer driver program in 2014 after he retired. John’s robust career included serving as an officer in the Marine Corps, working in the beer, soft drink, and plastic bottle manufacturing industries, and teaching high school algebra in California before relocating to Kansas City with his family.
It was JFS Board President Kelly Somberg who connected John to the agency. Kelly knew John volunteered at a community food ministry based at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR) in Overland Park and suggested John look into becoming a JetExpress driver. Now John volunteers most weeks both for JFS and COR.
Jet Express is a volunteer driver program providing transportation for adults (60 and older), helping them stay active, independent, and connected to the community.
Last year, JET Express volunteers provided 3,273 rides to 212 clients.
Typically, John signs up to provide an older adult one ride a week, but he often drives more depending on the demand. “When I go online, there are two people who I look for on the list when I sign up,” he said. “You get attached to people when you spend time with them,” said John, who refers to his riders as “precious cargo.”
Patricia McGhee has John booked for the next several weeks. John will take Patricia weekly to get her hair done and sometimes to doctors’ appointments. “You start to learn who their doctors are and try to coordinate upcoming appointments,” John said.
Another of John’s favorite riders is Marlene, who worked with John’s wife Debbie at the Jewish Community Center before Marlene retired. Marlene, now in her 80s, hasn’t been going out other than to doctor appointments during COVID-19—but Debbie and John did stay in touch with Marlene, and John looks forward to the day he can start driving Marlene to her regular activities again.
“John’s dedication has been an enormous asset in our JET Express program. When our drivers build relationships with clients, we know customer service and client satisfaction are higher, and clients are more likely to schedule the rides they need because they can anticipate seeing a friendly face,” said Rachel Ohlhausen, JFS program operations manager.
When COVID-19 hit, John took a brief hiatus from his volunteer activities, but it wasn’t long before returning. “It’s nice to get back toward normal,” John said.
If you are interested in becoming a JET Express volunteer, please contact our volunteer engagement team at (913) 730-1410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.