Story by Jon Breems
David Kendall has always loved meeting new people. He spent several decades in the Muskegon area using his people skills to help others in the insurance industry. After he retired from his career in insurance, a friend suggested he use his love of people in a new avenue—volunteering with the Red Cross of Muskegon in the senior transportation department.
“A good friend of mine was driving senior transit when I retired…he said ‘Dave you ought to do this,’” recalled Kendall. “Well, I’m a people person so I said ‘Yeah, that sounds fun.’”
Prior to retiring, Kendall had volunteered occasionally with the Red Cross by transporting blood, but this was his first experience in driving clients. In 2000, he began driving seniors on Fridays for several hours—and has been volunteering every Friday since.
“Over the 13 plus years (in senior transportation), I driven over 50,000 miles just around Muskegon—as many drivers have,” he adds, quick to note that he is just one on a team of many dedicated individuals.
The senior transportation services for the Red Cross of Muskegon began in 1986 when the area’s Agency on Aging approached the Red Cross for help. The area’s seniors were having difficulty getting to their medical appointments since many could not drive themselves. The agency asked the Red Cross if they would consider creating a transportation service to help those seniors who had no reliable means of transit.
Since its inception in 1986, the senior transportation service in Muskegon has grown to nearly 100 volunteers giving seniors about 20,000 rides last year alone. Kendall says the department has between 45-55 riders a day. Part of the joy of being a part of the senior transportation services, he says, is the enthusiasm and commitment of his fellow volunteers.
“The drivers look forward to driving, they really do. They’re very dedicated people.”
The group’s dedication was on display last Christmas when ice storms and frigid temperatures brought West Michigan to a halt. The thick layer of ice covering the roads meant many of the medical facilities were closed, and the Red Cross had to cancel most of its transportation appointments. However, for the handful of seniors with dialysis and cancer treatment appointments, rescheduling was not an option.
David Kendall and his fellow volunteers were there to help. Despite the dangerous conditions, he was able to transport ten seniors to these vital treatments.
“That particular day I drove 110 miles…The (seniors) were all very appreciative, as they all are. They’re wonderful people.”
For David Kendall and volunteers like him, the gratitude of those they help is contagious. The spirit of their work, and of the Red Cross, is, perhaps, best left to Kendall to describe:
“You can’t do this (work) and not enjoy helping people…I’m just very proud to be a part of it… If you really want to give time to help other people, then I would sure recommend the Red Cross.”