What's it like to ride with STARS?


Last updated 8/29/2023 at 10:31am

Photo provided

Marti and Bruce Cockrell utilize STARS transportation services

There are many reasons people need rides to medical appointments. They may have given up driving altogether, have a temporary condition that makes driving impossible, or they may feel uncomfortable driving in inclement weather or outside of their own area. Whatever the reasons, when people stop driving themselves, they have limited options for travel to nonemergency medical appointments. Most people rely on paying for rides, or asking a friend, neighbor, or family member for assistance. The problem with these options is the expense that adds up when using paid rides for frequent appointments, and the all-too-common feeling of being a "burden" to others.

When people need frequent appointments for doctor, dentist, pharmacy, PT, eye exams, etc., they may fear that they are wearing out the acquaintances they rely upon. The risk in thinking you are a burden is that necessary appointments are missed and the services that bring us autonomy and independence are no longer optimally utilized. If we do this too often, the next ride we need may be provided by the Sisters Fire Department!

This is where STARS, Sisters Transportation and Ride Share, comes in. We provide free rides to non-emergency medical appointments in Sisters, Redmond, and Bend, Mondays through Fridays, for Sisters Country residents. I sat down with two of our riders and asked them about their experience with our services. Marti and Bruce Cockrell moved to Sisters in 2021 from Sunriver. While they feel comfortable driving in town, the Cockrells appreciate that they can leave the driving to us for trips to medical appointments. They found out about STARS on a flyer posted at the post office.

Some people may feel uncomfortable reaching out to strangers for a ride in a private car, but Marti says that she was put at ease from the first contact. Calling the STARS dispatch number on Tuesdays and Thursdays put her in touch with the first volunteer, who started the process going. She immediately felt relaxed with the interaction and remembers how professional, helpful, and efficient it was to book a ride to a medical appointment. The dispatcher took all her information and entered her data and needs into the system. She ended the call remembering that she laughed with the dispatcher and the interaction was warm and connected. Soon she heard from a driver, who called to confirm the ride.

Both Bruce and Marti have been struck by how efficient the drivers are. They always arrive on time and most often are early. They know where they are going, their cars are clean, comfortable, and safe, and they are funny and good-natured people. While living at Sunriver, Bruce spent years employed as a shuttle driver. He says, "I know shuttle service driving and what it takes, and the STARS drivers are really good."

When asked if it's ever awkward to ride with strangers, the Cockrells agreed that they have always felt welcome and comfortable. Bruce finds it wonderful to chat with the drivers, who are in essence "neighbors," on the drive. The first topic of conversation is often what was read in The Nugget this week, and what is going on in town. The companionship is delightful, and Marti added, "there's pretty good gossip from time to time."

Riders who have scheduled medical appointments are welcome to bring a companion with them. Sometimes it is necessary, such as when a medical process is done requiring sedation, and sometimes it is to be that second set of ears at an appointment. Bruce and Marti often ride together so they can be there at their spouse's consultation, or they schedule their lab tests at the same time. One of the drivers, Chris West, sometimes brings doughnuts to share, and they hang on by their fingernails until after the lab visit so they can savor one.

Marti and Bruce summed up their experience this way: "What STARS really stands for is..."

S-Safe and Sharing Stories

T-Terrific and on Time




STARS is an action team of Age Friendly Sisters Country. Rides to health appointments are offered Monday through Friday. If you, or someone you know, needs a ride to a medical appointment, call 541-904-5545, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. A dispatcher can help you get the wheels rolling on being a STARS rider.

STARS will train new drivers 10:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, September 15 at the Sisters Fire District Community Hall Training Room. Complete an easy application online at https://starsride.org/volunteer; click "Drive for us." To apply in person, arrive at 10 a.m. STARS has a flexible commitment and offers mileage reimbursement. Email [email protected] with questions.


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