A golf buddy gave Stuart Arey the idea for a new volunteer activity after watching him climb into his car.
“We were in the parking lot, and he said, ‘Hey, you should drive for Lifespan,’” recalled Arey. “I didn’t even know what that was.”
Arey quickly discovered that Lifespan is a Buckhead-based nonprofit that offers a range of services to senior citizens. Along with continuing education classes, adult day care and driving lessons, one of the organization’s popular features is a transportation service that connects volunteers who own cars with seniors who need rides to medical appointments. It was a project that resonated with his own experience.
“Both my parents lived into their 90s, and we went through the issue of how to get them out of the car,” said Arey, 69. “There are all sorts of issues around when people shouldn’t be driving.”
Four years ago, Arey made his first volunteer run, and he’s been a regular on the rotation ever since.
His assignments for the organization, which is based at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3003 Howell Mill Road, regularly take him to homes across Buckhead and Sandy Springs and to destinations such as Grady Memorial Hospital, Emory Hospital or St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“Once I got involved and started driving, I really enjoyed it,” said Arey, who lives in Roswell. “I do it two days a week because there’s such a need.
“You get to know the people you’re driving, about their backgrounds, and it gives them a chance to talk to someone. There are a lot of people who moved to Atlanta because their kids are here, but nobody can take Grandma or Grandpa to the doctor. They really appreciate that this is one of the few totally free services like this in the area.”
Sandy Springs resident Kathy Cianfoni first met Arey two years ago and has never forgotten his kindness. Arey shuttled Cianfoni, who is blind, and her husband, a double amputee, to Piedmont Hospital for six weeks.
“I was desperately looking for transportation, and Stuart helped us,” said Cianfoni. “We immediately clicked. He has a lot of interests and really wants to get to know you so he can help. He’s one of those people you feel immediately comfortable with, even though you don’t know him.”
Cianfoni was so impressed with Arey and the Lifespan program that she, too, became a volunteer. For more than a year, she has matched drivers with those who need rides.
“I’m in a unique position because I can see what he does from both sides,” she said. “I get to see how people like Stuart get involved and hear how it brings so much into their lives.”
Arey became such a regular on the driving circuit that he was asked to join the Lifespan board.
He’s also branched out and started teaching defensive driving classes for seniors. And he takes every opportunity to tell people about Lifespan, which recently marked its 30th anniversary of serving seniors in the community.
“When people are getting ready to retire, I always ask them, ‘What are you going to do? You can’t just play golf!’” said Arey. “I enjoyed getting paid to work, but it’s just as important to do something other than that. Lifespan is a great way to give back to the community. And after a career of running things, sometimes it’s just a lot more fun to be the worker.”
Arey grew so interested in Lifespan’s activities that he set up a system to track the number of volunteers, trips and miles. “I’ve become the statistician,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not a math person at all, but it’s important to track our numbers to show what the organization has done.”
Last year, he said, Lifespan drivers tallied 10,000 miles for 650 rides. They’ve already surpassed the mileage number this year.
“It just shows that the need doesn’t decrease,” said Arey.
For more information, call 404-237-7307 or go to www.lifespanseniorresources.com.