As day trips resume, volunteer van drivers are sought for senior center

SOUTHWICK-As more day trip opportunities increase across the region, there is a need for more volunteer van drivers for programs sponsored by the Southwick Senior Center.

“You do not need a special license to drive the van, but you must be comfortable to drive,” said Cindy Sullivan, executive director, Southwick Council on Aging/Senior Center.

Volunteer van drivers are needed by the Southwick Council on Aging to transport seniors to day trips throughout the area. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

Sullivan noted that “perks” of being a van driver include attending an event for free, and if a lunch is featured, the driver also receives a free meal.

“We increase the price of each ticket $2-$3 depending on the event so that will cover the driver’s cost,” said Sullivan, adding that drivers must pass a CORI check and state Department of Transportation (DOT) driving record check.

“You do not need to be a senior to volunteer,” she said.

Sullivan said the Mass DOT reviews the application to ensure the person does not have a lot of accidents or drunk driving offenses. Additionally, the Southwick Police Department reviews the application and then provides Sullivan with a final report.

Sullivan said trips planned this fall include a day at the Foxwoods Resort Casino on Sept. 28 and an “apple picking day” with a location and date still to be determined. Trips are traditionally conducted weekdays and participants usually return to the senior center by 3 p.m.

Sullivan is hopeful she can recruit five to six volunteers since she only has two drivers at this time.

“In my last years before retirement I drove tractor trailers, mostly in New England and New Jersey,” said Sam Goodwin of Southwick. “Since I have loved driving and traveling, this was something I felt comfortable doing. I especially like to help people get out and see things in the area.”

Goodwin, who has been married for 57 years, said his wife also enjoys doing the day trips when he is driving.

“My wife usually goes where I go,” said Goodwin, adding, “I encourage others to consider driving the van since it is really not that hard. You just have to use common sense when driving.”

The Ford van seats 14 and the van driver is responsible for taking attendance before travelers board the bus.

“The van driver is also asked to ensure everyone is back on the bus before leaving the venue,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan said most day trip locations are within a 90-minute drive time.

“From lunch at Bernie’s Dining Depot in Chicopee to the Thimble Islands in Connecticut, we love hosting trips that we know everyone will enjoy,” she said.

For more details on upcoming trips or to become a volunteer van driver, call the office at (413) 569-5498, check out the website at southwickma.org/coa, visit the Southwick Senior Center/Council on Aging Facebook page, or visit the center at 454 College Highway.

“Being a van driver is an enriching experience since you are offering your service to the community,” said Sullivan, adding, “and each trip is always a lot of fun.”

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