Volunteer on wheels
Seniors offer driving services for house-bound passengers

by Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 24/98) - Irene Kilgik does not know how she would get to her physiotherapy appointments at Stanton Regional Hospital if she were not able to phone the Homecare Program.

Living on income assistance since she moved to Yellowknife in April 1996, the 37-year-old woman was originally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was a mere 24, in Cambridge Bay.

Since arriving in Yellowknife, she has had three operations: one on each shoulder and a left hip replacement.

Now, for her doctor's appointments, hospital physiotherapy appointments and specialist appointments at the Stanton Medical Centre, she depends on the Homecare program and one of their 10 volunteers give her a ride.

Though not quite a senior yet, at 63 years old, Gladys Eggenberger is president of the Yellowknife Seniors Society.

"We started doing the homecare two years ago," Eggenberger said. "Homecare phones us."

Other drivers in the fleet are Jim Wylie, Marilyn Paradis, Linda Otto, Barbara Bromley, Carole Lane, D'arcy Arden, Ed Jeske, Lou Delaney and Dennis Lowing.

"Most of us like driving," Eggenberger said. "And it's a way to get out."

She said she is not as isolated as a lot of people and is glad to be able to spur activities among seniors.

Drivers usually receive at least one day's notice from someone wanting a ride and requests flow through the Homecare Program and the Baker Centre.

The Baker Centre opened in January 1997 and though activities like crib and swimming did not bring out many people, there may be new activities to get people out.

Twice a week about 20 seniors take an exercise class at the centre and about half receive rides from the volunteer drivers.

"The gentlemen don't seem to want to exercise," she said of the so-far women-only class.

There is also a regular free Friday lunch program which draws upwards of about 80 people, with about 10 receiving rides.

There is no limit to the number of rides someone can receive each week.

All drivers pay for their own gas and drive their own vehicles, except for one driver who has the gas donated by Braden Burry Expediting.

And April 17, the Yellowknife Co-op donated vouchers for 500 litres of gas to help provide rides.

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