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Virginia

Your Neighbors Could Use Your Help

Do you have a car and a few hours? Volunteers deliver meals, drive people to medical or social appointments

Cyndi Yakshe provides rides to older people who no longer drive.

Cyndi Yakshe provides rides to older people who no longer drive. The Poquoson resident is among hundreds of Virginians who help deliver meals and take neighbors to medical appointments. — Photo by Matt Eich/LUCEO

To serve her community, Cyndi Yakshe signed up to drive people to medical appointments for the Peninsula Agency on Aging (PAA). She stays involved for the people.

"I was looking for a way to give back, but it's not entirely selfless. I get as much out of this as my riders," she said.

See also: Value of volunteers.

Yakshe, 58, of Poquoson, transports people who no longer drive or can't afford a car. She averages one trip a week, usually about 30 miles round trip and from 90 minutes to half a day.

Like other volunteer drivers, Yakshe is not reimbursed for mileage she puts on her car, but the PAA sends her a statement at the end of the year for tax purposes. Volunteer drivers only transport individuals; a PAA van is used for groups and clients in wheelchairs.

She's one of hundreds of volunteers at Virginia's 25 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). Many AAA officials say they could use double the number of volunteers.

The nonprofits provide meals to homebound people, offer transportation to appointments, host meals at senior centers and help clients sift through insurance and Medicare options.

Can defer nursing home

AAA volunteers worked nearly 610,000 hours last year, equal to about 300 full-time employees.

Although volunteers perform a number of tasks, AAA officials say the most acute need is for drivers, both for transporting people to medical appointments and delivering Meals on Wheels.

"The AAAs provide first-line services for seniors in their communities," said Bill Kallio, AARP Virginia state director.

He said AAA services help people remain in their homes longer.

Kallio noted that when older people move to a nursing home, they may quickly deplete their resources and have to rely on Medicaid, which is financed by state and federal taxes, to pay for the cost.

"The longer we can keep them in the community, the better it is for the individual and the commonwealth," he said.

Next: One driver brings his granddaughters. »

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