Marcia Cale, fresh off knee surgery, had a dilemma. She was recuperating from the procedure at the Moorings of Arlington Heights, a senior living community, and she was scheduled to check in with her doctor to see how the operation had gone. Unable to transport herself to the appointment, she was facing a $70 bill to hire a medical transport service to drive her less than a mile.
Dissatisfied, she placed a call to Kathy Kasprowicz, chief operating officer of Escorted Transportation Service Northwest. It was short notice, but Kasprowicz placed a call to a friend of hers to get Cale out of her jam.
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"She came over and picked me up and got me to the doctor," Cale said.
"It was a long appointment, but she went and ran some errands and came back and not only took me to the Moorings but brought me a flower in a vase on top of it."
It's this sort of service that earned Escorted Transportation Service Northwest recognition on a national scale. ETS/NW, a nonprofit company that provides rides for senior citizens to and from medical appointments, received a STAR Merit Award from the Beverly Foundation earlier this month.
The organization was one of 18 from a pool of 378 applicants to be honored by the Beverly Foundation, which seeks to "foster new ideas and options to enhance mobility and transportation" for seniors, according to its website.
ETS/NW is funded almost entirely through grants, fundraising and donations, including a suggested $12 donation per round trip from passengers. The rides -- of which there were 2,453 last year -- are provided by volunteers who donate their own time and vehicles to the cause.
Dan Quiery is one of those volunteers. Retired now, he first heard of ETS/NW while handling senior services for a taxi dispatcher. Every so often, Quiery would get reports of an unpleasant encounter between a driver and passenger. When ETS/NW drivers were held up as an example of how drivers should behave, Quiery's interest was piqued.
Now in his third year with the organization, Quiery, 74, was named Volunteer of the Year in 2011. He downplays the significance -- "It's based solely on quantity," he said -- but ETS/NW executive director Lynndah Easterwood Lahey said he's a hit among people who use the service.
"Dan, like so many of our volunteers, has his own private fan club," Lahey said. "The passengers all love when they get somebody they can really connect with; Dan is requested over and over again."
Cale, 73, echoes those comments. She used the service six years ago when she was working and her husband needed to be escorted to his cancer treatments. Now widowed, she said she appreciates not only the rides to and from her appointments but also the camaraderie.
"My husband was an Englishman, transplanted," Cale said. "I'm kind of partial because he was very much a gentleman and so is Dan."
Both Quiery and Cale focused on how interconnected driving and independence are with one another, and how devastating it can be to lose that. Cale, who has Parkinson's disease, said she appreciates ETS/NW for helping to diminish that loss.
"This service has filled in the lack of independence of not having a vehicle," Cale said. "That certainly was a major blow, and this allows me to get to my necessary appointments very efficiently."