Sound Generations’ volunteer driver Kathe Kern has always believed in giving her time to help others. With a degree in zoology and chemistry, she began her first volunteer gig—reading and recording textbooks for blind students. But when her first son came along, Kathe found she could no longer make recordings. Babies are loud!
Fortunately, Kathe came across a Sound Generations, formerly Senior Services, ad in the newspaper for volunteer drivers to take seniors to medical appointments. The gig seemed perfect as it allowed her to put her little boy in the backseat and take him along. Twenty-nine years and four more boys later, Kathe is still driving. All five kids—one or two at a time—accompanied her as she went from her Mercer Island home all over the east side and Seattle with elders needing rides to the doctor.
Kathe says her boys learned valuable lessons from the experience. “I drove a woman who had cancer,” she remembers, “and she yelled at me. The boys’ eyes got as big as the moon, since they knew no one was allowed to talk to mom that way. Later I explained that the lady was very sick and maybe dying, and this is one of those times you have to be understanding.”
Sound Generations Volunteer Transportation program provides door-to-door rides to medical appointments and back for seniors age 60 and older who are not able to drive themselves or manage public transportation. Last year, 357 caring and dedicated people—many of them seniors themselves—volunteered to help elders get to their doctors.
According to Kathe, the rewards of driving are great. “It has been as good for me as for the people I drove,” she says. “They’re good company and we tell each other our stories.” The clients have been appreciative and always loved seeing Kathe’s kids. Though the boys are grown now, Kathe still drives several times a week. “It gets me out of the house!”
At Sound Generations, we recognize the importance of sharing stories, legacies and lessons learned so that the next generations feel empowered to do the same. Kathe has sown the seeds of volunteerism and inspired her sons to donate their time at organizations such as the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation and Canoe Island French Camp. It just goes to show how a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Her service to Sound Generations serves as an important reminder of the positive impact intergenerational interactions can have on us all.