STARS recognizes volunteers

 

Last updated 10/17/2023 at 10:04am

Photo by Sue Stafford

Shelly Smith is Dispatcher of the Year for 2023.

Last Thursday, October 10, the bar at Three Creeks Brew Pub was full of good food, good friends, and good feelings as the Sisters Transportation and Ride Share (STARS) organization gathered for their second annual volunteer appreciation event.

STARS provides free rides to nonemergency medical appointments (physicians, dental, vision, physical therapy, hearing, lab work, and testing) in Sisters, Bend, and Redmond for residents of Sisters Country who can't drive themselves. Rides are given by volunteers who use their own cars to help their neighbors. All volunteers are screened and trained. Dispatching is an easy way to volunteer from home one or two days a month to help those who need rides to connect with drivers.

Rides are available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. To schedule rides, call STARS dispatch at 541-904-5545 on Tuesday or Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. At least 48 hours advance notice is required.

The organization began as an action team of Age Friendly Sisters Country and is currently pursuing the option of becoming an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. STARS is totally run by volunteers, with Rennie Morrell serving as the program manager, Toni Landis overseeing the drivers, and Tom Gonsiewski shepherding the dispatchers who take the calls and put out the daily listing of available rides to the drivers.

Morrell thanked all the volunteers, sharing that in all of 2022, they provided 328 rides covering 12,000 miles. So far in 2023, that number has already increased to 360 rides for 15,000 miles with several months left in the year.

Several volunteers were recognized with STARS travel mugs and sweatshirts for their contributions to STARS. Shelly Smith received the Dispatcher of the Year Award for her work above and beyond her required duties. Annie Marland, who was providing caring rides long before STARS began, was named Driver of the Year. In true Annie form, she turned around and thanked Gonsiewski, Landis, and Morrell for all their work on behalf of STARS.

Even though Landis no longer lives in Sisters, she said she "can't stop working for the community" and came up from the mountains of California for the gathering.

STARS is able to offer their services due to the generosity of many individuals and grants from the Roundhouse Foundation, City of Sisters, Rumberger Foundation, Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation, St. Charles Foundation, and Citizens4Community.

There are currently about 40 active volunteers offering their services to STARS, many with dual roles in the organization. To find out more about volunteering contact Rennie Morrell at [email protected] or 541-610-2098. STARS is seeking volunteers to help with their transition to an independent 501(c)(3), to serve on their board of directors, and to continue helping the community one ride at a time as drivers, dispatchers, and managers.

 

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