Arly Waldron, 87, has a doctor's appointment. The only problem is that she doesn't drive. Luckily, she can rely on a free volunteer driving service known as Harvard Help to get her to and from appointments.
The small group of volunteers has remained strong for more than three decades, coordinating rides for those who can't drive and furthering a sense of Harvard's tight-knit community.
Residents in town can volunteer to be a driver, answer phone calls or take down messages for the service one day a month. Waldron, who has also answered phone calls for a long time, said the service is used often.
"It's always helpful for people to be able to know that they're not going to be stuck," she said.
Although her Tuesday morning appointment at Wellesley Therapeutics was canceled, she still came out with her driver, Ginger Watts, to talk about the program.
"I think it gives an additional attraction to the town," she said, sitting in the passenger's seat with her walking cane.
Pat Edmonds, vice president for Harvard Help, said the group is a back-up organization for the Council on Aging van, providing trips when the van is unavailable. Drivers typically go to doctor and dentist appointments within a 10- to 12-mile radius, with an occasional hair appointment.
Clients call the police nonemergency number and are given the name and contact information of the volunteer taking phone calls that day.
But with only 20 drivers, Edmonds said the group does not have as many as it would like.
"We could always use more volunteers, especially drivers," she said.
The number of rides per week varies, she said, but the service is still well used and very much appreciated.
"There are some weeks when it's a little bit quieter, but for the most part, we probably have one day a week when there's no request," she said.
The group has survived with a devoted bunch of volunteers like Maybel Sawyer, who still continued to work for Harvard Help even after she moved out of Harvard into Shirley in 2006. She volunteers as a log-keeper, relaying phone calls to drivers about their upcoming schedules.
"It's extremely important, because there are people who for one reason or another, can't drive themselves and have no other resource," she said. "And I feel that it's vital to keep people in their homes and be able to still live in Harvard."
To volunteer for Harvard Help, contact Pat Edmonds at 978-456-8367 or Pat White at 978-456-8127.
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