WILLMAR — Patty Peterson enjoyed a busy career helping others as a licensed practical nurse in Willmar. There were days when she would assist as many as 100 patients.
She realized right away after retiring in October: “I can’t sit at home and retire. I’m a nurse. I have to be doing something,” said Peterson.
Today she sets her own pace, staying as busy as she wants while still helping others and enjoying the chance to see people as a personal shopper for a delivery service.
“Absolutely love it,” said Peterson.
The new retiree is just the sort of person that Terry Smith with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission is looking to connect to Tiffany Collins and her staff at Central Community Transit.
As the regional transit coordinator for the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, Smith knows the need for people like Peterson who enjoy helping others while remaining active on their own terms.
These are people known to Collins as volunteer drivers. There is a definite need for them in Kandiyohi, Meeker and Renville counties right now, according to Collins, who is the director of CCT.
CCT oversees the volunteer driver program for the three counties. It provides rides for people to medical appointments or to get groceries or other needs at times or places the CCT buses do not reach. Every weekday, volunteers with the program are serving anywhere from 20 to 40 individuals needing transportation in the three counties, according to Collins.
There are currently 52 volunteers in the three counties. Collins would like to add another dozen or more to the roster.
Many of those who sign up to be volunteer drivers do so intending to help out for a short while. Before they know it, they are receiving certificates of thanks for years of service, said Collins.
The reasons they stick with it are easy to understand. The drivers like what they do. They enjoy visiting with those receiving rides and like the fact that they are giving back, said Collins. “They know they are definitely helping people,” she said.
The majority of rides are to bring people to medical appointments, or for needs like groceries. The medical appointments can be for everything from routine doctor visits to dialysis and cancer treatments.
Those needing rides include people who cannot afford their own vehicles, or have limitations due to health or age that prevent them from driving. Sometimes, the volunteers fill in to provide rides to seniors when their family members or other helpers aren’t able to do so, Collins said.
Smith knows there are lots of people in the area ready to help others. He pointed to an acquaintance who delivers takeout food for charitable donations. She donated the $1,000 she earned to charitable organizations for the chance to pay it all forward.
The volunteer driving program offers the opportunity to do exactly that by helping people in area communities. For more information, visit www.MMRDC.org, Contact Terry Smith at [email protected], or contact Central Community Transit in Willmar at 320-235-8412, in Olivia at 320-523-3589, or in Litchfield at 320-693-7794.