SNAP’s volunteer driver program helps seniors during pandemic

SPOKANE, Wash. – Some had the choice to stay home during this pandemic, but imagine not even having the option to go out.  That’s the reality for many seniors living in our community.

75-year-old Gloria Pavasars has been spending a lot of time inside.

“I haven’t been able to drive for six months,” said Pavasars.

Not only does she need a walker to help her get around, but she recently developed cataracts. It’s made it impossible for her to get behind the wheel.

“We would be sitting in our apartments not even able to get medical help,” said Pavasars.

Last fall, she decided to try SNAP’s new transportation program Neighbors on the Go. The program relies on volunteer drivers to help seniors 65 and older get their doctor’s appointments.

“It was something I used to do with my mom before COVID shut it down,” said Susan Willis, Volunteer with SNAP.

Susan’s mom lives at a memory care facility in Spokane. When the pandemic hit, she was no longer able to see her. She figured, why not help others in the same position?

“It was something for me to do to get out of the house and meet people,” said Willis.

There are currently 28 volunteers with Neighbors on the Go. Most of them provide rides for 1-2 people per week.

Since the program started in October, volunteers have been able to help 51 seniors living in the Spokane community.

“The older you get the more frequent the medical appointments are. I think it’s a relief to them to be able to have direct access,” said Willis.

“I may never drive again and it’s wonderful to know that SNAP is there. I just call them, leave a message, they call me back to confirm it and they tell me who’s going to be my driver,” said Pavasars.

Volunteers like Susan, who over time become more than just a driver, but also a friend.

“I feel safe. I feel like she likes me and I like her. It makes all the difference,” Pavasars said.