Sandy Transit drivers pivot to help with Meals on Wheels during crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has meant a lot of adaptation worldwide.
One area of Sandy that's had to roll with the punches is Sandy Area Metro (SAM), where serving the community is still paramount and administrators and drivers have been working to expand on how they help those in need.
One way the public transportation department has expanded its service is by using vehicles and drivers to help with the local Meals on Wheels program run out of the Sandy Senior/Community Center.
Multiple drivers are still transporting people in need to and from medical appointments and other essential errands, but now they're delivering food as well.
"They're still life-sustaining rides and people need to get to appointments," said driver Kayoni Winfree. "It's been a fairly easy transition. You're going from delivering humans to places to delivering food to humans."
Winfree is only in her 10th month driving for SAM but has a history of working in rentals for wheelchair-accessible vans and drove Trimet Lift for eight years prior to joining Sandy transit.
"I feel blessed to have a career where I can help out the members of the community who are often unseen," she said.
Brian Jensen, who's driven for SAM for 20 years, is similarly motivated in his work.
"I like helping people," he said. "It's kind of neat to see how far (the help from Meals on Wheels) goes. STAR (SAM's dial-a-ride service) is more local."
With fewer STAR rides nowadays, Jensen says he does wonder how his regular riders are doing, but the mission of driving for Meals on Wheels still hits home for him.
"It helps people, and you meet different people every day," Jensen said.
Though they both drive multiple people every day, neither Winfree nor Jensen expressed concern for their own safety.
At SAM the drivers wipe down their vehicles after every run and then the vehicles are completely cleaned every time they return to the operations center.
"There's always some concern, but you keep cleanliness as best you can," Jensen said.
The drivers take their own precautions — aside from wearing masks and gloves while driving — to keep themselves and their families safe.
"I keep myself protected," Winfree said, explaining that she actually leaves her work clothes in the same spot every time she returns home and showers immediately. "I think it's important to take our own accountability and follow what the government says to keep yourself healthy."
"As a community, collectively, we need to use our best decision-making on whether it's necessary to leave the house," Jensen added. "We, (as drivers,) really need to stay healthy during this time so our operation can keep on running. There are a lot of people who can't get around by themselves, whether it's to get to the doctor or get food. I think it's important for us to be out there to help them do that. They should know we're out here for people to use and get where they need to go."
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