When the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society made a public appeal for much-needed long-range drivers to help transport cancer patients to and from the Langleys, the response was immediate.
Society spokesperson George Garrett said five drivers responded shortly after the article appeared in The Times last month.
“We have three of them on the road already.”
Garrett encouraged other would-be volunteers to get in touch.
“We always need drivers.”
The VCDS is a registered charity, with its funding coming from a variety of municipal and charitable sources.
The demand for the service is increasing, a fact reflected in the increased budget for the coming fiscal year of about $180,000, an increase of more than $50,000.
Garrett said the service hopes the Township of Langley will chip in once again, after two successful grant applications in previous years.
The service also plans to apply to Langley City for assistance as well.
The VCDS operates in both Langleys, Abbotsford, Surrey, White Rock, Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Port Moody, the North Shore, Delta and part of New Westminster.
Service to other communities in the Lower Mainland is offered by the Freemason’s Cancer Car Program.
Dispatchers work from home, and volunteers drive one to three times a week. Patients call the number, leave information with their address and time of appointment, and they get a call back within 24 hours with info on the driver.
Drivers are reimbursed 41 cents per kilometre. Some choose to donate a portion back, Garrett said.
The VCDS was created as an emergency replacement by drivers who used to work in the Volunteer Driver Program that was cancelled in 2015 as a cost-saving measure by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) after almost a quarter-century.
When the CCS cancelled its volunteer drivers program, its press release said the decision was based on “factors such as similar government-funded driving programs, decreasing volunteers and ridership as well as increasing operating costs.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with the VCDS can visit the website for information on how to apply: volunteercancerdrivers.ca.
Drivers must provide proof of insurance, a reference, their ICBC driving record, and pass a criminal record check.
To schedule a ride, once a patient has received their referral and knows the dates and times of upcoming appointments, they, a family member or a caregiver can call the dispatch office at 604-515-5400.
The caller will be greeted by an automated attendant and asked for their name, address, phone number and the date and location of their appointment.
They will be contacted via phone by their designated volunteer driver to introduce him/herself, confirm they appointment, and arrange a pickup time.
It’s a round-trip; the driver will wait at the appointment location and return the patient home immediately afterward.
The society offers free transportation to patients throughout diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care. A caregiver may accompany a patient and most drivers can accommodate walkers and wheelchairs.