Ride program salutes its volunteers
Last updated 11/1/2022 at Noon
“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” is the common, heartfelt sentiment voiced by Sisters residents who receive free rides to nonemergency medical appointments in Sisters, Redmond, and Bend courtesy of Sisters Transportation and Ride Share (STARS).
Volunteers drivers, dispatchers, and action team members for STARS were honored last Thursday at the first-ever STARS Volunteer Appreciation gathering.
The organization is an “action team” under the umbrella of Age Friendly Sisters Country (AFSC). Volunteer drivers began providing rides in March 2020 and in those 2.5 years (during COVID), 800 rides have been provided covering 40,000 miles. Volunteer dispatchers, answering phones and scheduling rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., have worked 256 scheduled days, and many more monitoring the schedule to be sure rides have been assigned.
Age Friendly Sisters Country evolved from its forerunner, the Senior Alliance, an advocacy and action group focused on making an age-friendly community here in Sisters. The Alliance grew out of efforts by Sisters resident Joan Power, who had faced challenges familiar to seniors when unexpected health issues arise. Power was recognized last Thursday for her foundational work in providing the spark for what has become an organization dedicated to making Sisters a good place for all ages.
The ride-share program has received generous grant support from The Roundhouse Foundation, City of Sisters, Citizens4Community, St. Charles Foundation, Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation, and Gloria and Douglas Rumberger Foundation.
Age Friendly Sisters Country provided the administrative assistance necessary to get STARS up and running and continues to provide assistance as needed. Three of the AFSC members were recognized for their invaluable assistance with Thank You A-Lattes. Judy Smith, AFSC liaison, Dixie Eckford, AFSC grants, and Peggy Tehan, AFSC treasurer, all received coffee mugs and gift cards for local coffee shops.
STARS Program Director Rennie Morrell has a heart for the mission, and sees to it that it all runs seamlessly. Despite COVID-19 regulations requiring drivers follow certain procedures, and her own recuperating from multiple surgeries, she never missed a beat.
Two drivers were recognized by Driver Coordinator Toni Landis, who, along with Suzy Ramsey, manages the drivers. Debbie Hewett was named Superstar Driver for her 15,427 miles, the most of any driver. Chris West was given the title Donut Driver for taking the most short-lead rides and taking his passengers donuts.
Karen Thrower was crowned Dispatcher Diva for the most dispatch hours, by Dispatch Supervisor Tom Gonsiewski.
Sisters businesses showed their appreciation for what STARS offers the community by providing gift cards and merchandise valued at over $2,500 for awards, door prizes, and 50 gift bags, one for each driver.
“You do such wonderful things for the community,” said one business owner.
Sisters Liquor Store donated wine for the event and Three Creeks Brewing the beer and cider. Award gifts came from Bedouin, Oliver Lemon’s, Canyon Creek Pottery, Sisters Bakery, Sisters Coffee Company, Fika Sisters Coffee, Hike-N-Peaks, Bi-Mart, and Sisters Mainline Station.
Five door prize baskets, each valued at over $100, contained items from Takodas, Culver House, Sisters Cascade, Lynne Myers – artist, Open Door, Pony Express, Sage Salon – Marla Brinkman, The Hen’s Tooth, Your Store, and Blessed Beauty – Jessica Fischer.
Gift bags were full of goodies from Sisters Apothecary, Sisters Cascade, Sisters Ace Hardware, High Desert Chocolates, Candy Corral, Common Threads, Sisters Meat and Smokehouse, Bi-Mart Corporate, Sundance Shoes, Ray’s Food Place, and Cascade Spirits.