Plains Township, Luzerne County -- A van transporting cancer patients to Geisinger's Henry Cancer Center rolled in Friday afternoon to the facility. The van is one of the vehicles used in the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program. It provides free rides for patients like Laureen Marrero of Wilkes-Barre who need transportation to and from their appointments. "Considering I don't drive or have a license it's a great, great thing. All of the volunteers are wonderful," said Ms. Marrero.The problem is that lately there just aren't enough volunteer drivers like Gary Williams of Shavertown. "I've seen some times where there is only one person that can cover for the day and it makes it tough to put in a seven or eight hour day trying to get six to eight patients to where they need to go," said Mr. Williams. What's more the program operates in more than just Luzerne County. It's one of half-dozen northeastern Pennsylvania counties where the service has been in existence since the 1980s.
The Road to Recovery program currently has 15 drivers in Lackawanna County but the program requires twice that many and because of the shortage the group had to turn down requests for transportation for several cancer patients this week." American Cancer Society officials say that rarely happens but the current situation illustrates the need for more drivers to help so many cancer patients in need of the service. "We take in Lackawanna County alone between 20 and 25 rides a week. That's just in Lackawanna County and it adds up to be almost a thousand rides a year that we're taking people back and forth for treatment," said American Cancer Society Health Initiatives Representative Jill Giomboni. American Cancer Society Health Initiatives Representative Jennifer Washney added, "We need them (drivers) in other rural counties. If you live in Wyoming or Susquehanna or Wayne or Pike. You know, cancer touches everyone no matter where they live."
Volunteer drivers must be at least 21-years-old with a valid Pennsylvania driver's license, a good driving record and complete a background and driver check and attend a brief orientation program (takes less than an hour). Hours of driving are flexible and rides are typically provided Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Drivers can restrict availability to only a certain day(s) of the week or 1/2 day or whatever amount of time they can. You can drive your vehicle or an ACS vehicle, where available. Anyone interested in volunteering with the Road to Recovery program can call the American Cancer Society in Taylor at 570-562-9749 and ask to speak to a Health Initiatives Representative or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.