Have car, will help? VolTran is looking for volunteer drivers

Organization takes seniors in Rappahannock and neighboring counties to appointments

By Jeff Say

Culpeper Times

VolTran is looking for more volunteers.

The volunteer driving organization logged 2,700 miles and 470 trips in 2017, but is looking to expand its reach.

Larry Stillwell, VolTran coordinator, Piedmont Resource Support LLC, said the program was started in 2007 but tapered off due to the recession. In the past year, VolTran has received renewed funding through the PATH Foundation and is growing its volunteer base.

The organization covers Rappahannock, Culpeper and Fauquier counties, providing transportation for seniors who need to travel to appointments.

“They polled seniors about their biggest challenges,” Stillwell said of how VolTran formed. “Transportation was right at the top of the list.”

The volunteering base is mostly retired individuals, with a valid driver’s license, who pick up and transports seniors.

VolTran is participating in Give Local Piedmont, but in addition to funds, they’re mostly looking for increased visibility and more volunteers.

They have about 20 volunteer drivers on the roster, Stillwell said, with about 10 to 12 active at any moment time.

VolTran’s resurgence is in part to their dealing with the FAMS One Call Center in Culpeper, which now handles all their calls.

“Our partnership with them has really made it possible to grow,” Stillwell said. “The old method for VolTran was that there was a phone line at the Fauquier DSS and you would leave a message. After hours, DSS staff would return that message. It was possible because it was a small volume at that point.”

Now, the VolTran number is transferred directly to the one call center and they handle the task of collecting the passenger’s name, their address, phone number and when their appointment is. That information is transferred to Stillwell who then connects with drivers via email to see who is available to drive.

“We’ve had three or four people responding to one ride,” Stillwell said.

The numbers have surged in the past year. In 2017, they had a total of 604 requests and were able to provide 438 rides. Already this year they’ve had 75 requests and 58 rides provided in January and 92 requests and 66 rides in February.

Of half the rides that don’t take place, it’s because the client canceled while the other half are due to no driver available.

“We’ve made a real effort to recruit volunteers,” Stillwell said. “It’s because of the Call Center and the publicity it and Aging Together does.”

Stillwell said that the majority of the calls come from Fauquier County, with 80 percent originating in the town of Warrenton. The Northern Piedmont Community Foundation has provided funds to help reach out in Rappahannock and Culpeper counties.

“We’ve done a really good job of becoming better known and getting new drivers,” Stillwell said.

Stillwell stressed that for drivers, the amount of commitment is totally up to them.

“People can drive whenever they want, as little or as often as they want,” Stillwell said.

Drivers are asked to use their own cars and many of the trips are to Warrenton, Fairfax, Manassas and some to Charlottesville. Stillwell said the volunteer drivers have responded with positive feedback.

“They love it, they find it very satisfying,” he said. “A lot of them are eager to transport certain people again because they just enjoy them and they enjoy that feeling of helping out.”

He said part of the outreach is finding drivers who live in Rixeyville, Marshall, Catlett or Morrisville and outlying areas.

“We really want to serve our whole footprint,” Stillwell said.

For more information about VolTran, call 540-422-8424 or visit www.voltran.org.