–By Emily R. Anderson
Drivers for Survivors is a non-profit organization located in Fremont, Calif. which pairs volunteer drivers with cancer patients who need rides to their medical appointments.
The mission is simply wonderful. In order for cancer patients to worry less about how to get to their appointments, Drivers for Survivors provides much needed support for those who already have enough on their emotional plates.
Executive Director Sherry Higgs started this non-profit and shared her enthusiasm with how her volunteers throughout the past five years have been life savers. More often than not, volunteer drivers – who have gone through back ground checks, have had a good driving record for at least five years, and have a reliable, working car – become friends with their clients.
Drivers for Survivors has been around for almost five years serving clients living in Fremont, Union City and Newark. As of July 1st, volunteers have since begun serving clients living in more Alameda County cities: Hayward, San Lorenzo, San Leandro, Castro Valley, Ashland and Cherryland. It is located at 39270 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite 355.
Dubbed volunteer companion drivers by Higgs, these angels on wheels can decide how often they want to volunteer. Some people only have time to drive clients on weekends or once a week; the need is always there, but it’s a stress-free scheduling environment because there is no schedule. There are no time slots that need to be filled in advance.
Ms. Higgs says that “volunteers will get an e-mail every day or a call when a (a pick up) needs to be fulfilled. No private information is given. For example an e-mail will list that the client is a Fremont resident, and his or her Fremont appointment starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 3:25 p.m at the Fremont Kaiser location. The volunteers reply back and [decide to take] number one or number five on the list. Sometimes volunteers choose a few appointments at once. Sometimes drivers bond really well with their passengers and decide to keep [giving] their passengers rides.”
Once a volunteer chooses to accept a ride, a patient then decides which information to give to Drivers for Survivors volunteers.
Volunteer drivers do need to give at least one client ride once every six months in order to remain in “active” status. Drivers for Survivors currently has 121 active volunteer drivers and has had 214 drivers overall since it began. She has had four volunteers who have volunteered since the beginning; in fact, the woman who gave Ms. Higgs rides to her appointments when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 is one of these four women.
Drivers for Survivors has received several awards over the years from California politicians and Ms. Higgs has been inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame. (This organization recognizes women who are leaders who live in or work in Alameda County.)
Ms. Higgs has been very grateful for the serendipitous moments that have occurred over the years, thankful for every one’s efforts to continue helping in the organization’s growth.
“We all need to grab onto something: a non-profit, or any cause…and give more of ourselves,” she said. “The medical providers and our mainstream resources have so much on their plates already. Networks like ours are very valuable because we pick up some of the slack.”
Drivers for Survivors is expanding its 403-square-feet office into the office space next door to create 333 more square feet for staff and interns by August 1. While 736 square-feet isn’t huge, this much-needed space will continue to allow all staff, interns and volunteers to continue their dedicated work. Since the beginning, 11,500 rides have been given to 288 cancer patients. And Ms. Higgs hopes to create satellite offices in other areas in the future to accommodate other volunteers and clients in the future.
Interns and non-driving volunteers are always needed for marketing, administrative support, and the need for putting up flyers in the community is always helpful. Drivers for Survivors also holds its annual gala at the Castlewood County Club, so fundraising efforts are key.
Drivers for Survivors also holds annual volunteer appreciation luncheons as well as quarterly volunteer trainings so volunteers can meet each other and discuss any relevant topics as needed. For example, volunteers may need to be trained how to help a blind cancer patient in and out of vehicles.
The logo on the brochures shows a red heart atop wheels. Ms. Higgs expressed the importance of “the synergy of working together” because Drivers for Survivors is doing the right thing.
“It’s important to keep the momentum going,” Higgs said. She speaks with such pride and love of the non-profit. She started as a one woman show and she understands the value of volunteers’ time and efforts. Her energy and passion for the simple, but life-saving mission is heartfelt: love for the organization’s mission is what keeps her driving onward.
If you’re in the Alameda County area and would like to volunteer, please call 510-579-0535 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.