Dorla Green lives on a fixed income and has a disability that makes it hard for her to get from place to place. She is still able to run her errands, however, thanks to the Roman Catholic Community of Geneva’s DOVE program.
The DOVE program is a network of volunteers who provide rides to Geneva residents who are unable to drive or pay for public transportation. Whenever Green needs a ride she calls Jennie Luciano, the program’s coordinator. Luciano will then arrange for Green to receive a ride from one of about 20 volunteers.
Luciano keeps a list of the volunteers’ names, phone numbers and availability, making notes about when volunteers will be out of town, working or volunteering with another organization. She usually has about seven or eight volunteers at any given time, she said.
Volunteers from the Roman Catholic Community of Geneva, which comprises St. Stephen and St. Francis de Sales parishes, have provided hundreds of rides since the program’s inception in 1988. In order to receive transportation a person needs to be a Geneva resident, be traveling to a destination within 25 miles of Geneva and give at least 24 hours notice, Luciano said.
In 2003 alone the DOVE program provided more than 200 rides to Geneva residents, according to statistics from the Roman Catholic Community of Geneva’s bulletin.
The service provided by the DOVE program is necessary because many people can’t afford to take a taxi or ride the bus, Luciano said.
Bob Saunderson has been volunteering with the DOVE program for six years. His passengers usually enjoy chatting about everything from the weather to more serious topics.
“Once in a while, people just like to discuss their ailments and get it off their chest,” Saunderson said.
Fellow volunteer Bob Drury said he transports people two or three times a month, often bringing them to and from doctor appointments.
Drury said he has experienced a number of memorable moments in the six years since he been a volunteer. Several weeks ago, for example, he realized he made a difference as he took a woman’s hand to help her out of his car. As the woman held his hand, she said, “It feels so good to feel a human hand.”
“Some of these people do live alone so they mostly don’t see people,” Drury said.
Another time Drury brought a woman who lived in a nursing home to a Sunday Mass at St. Francis de Sales Parish, where she received Communion. She died the next Saturday, and Drury said he was glad he’d been able to help her receive the Eucharist before she passed away.
Drury said he volunteers with the program because it’s a very practical way of helping people.
“There are a lot of retired people who are able to drive, and there are a lot of people who need rides,” Drury said.
Saunderson began volunteering for similar reasons.
“I was retired and had some time on my hands,” Saunderson said. “I just liked the idea of the program — helping out people that weren’t able to drive or had other problems. It just seemed like a good thing to do.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to illness and vacations, the DOVE program is short-handed and is looking for more volunteers. Those who are interested may call Jennie Luciano at 315/789-6838.