Local volunteers paint town “Pink” to get seniors to and from vaccinations

·4 min read

They might not be hitting the streets in rose-coloured roadsters, but volunteers from PinkCars.ca are leaving seniors tickled pink in helping them navigate their COVID-19 vaccination journey from registration to jab.

PinkCars.ca was recently founded by Shanta Sundarason to mobilize volunteers with cars to help take the guesswork out of the vaccination process for seniors, helping them not only book their appointments online or over the phone but shuttle them to and from vaccination clinics throughout the year.

For Sundarason, founding Pinkcars.ca was a way to fill a gap in the system, and filling this gap was just one of the many reasons Aurora’s Jane Taylor stepped forward as a volunteer driver.

This past weekend, Ms. Taylor carried out her sixth drive for the organization.

A full-time employee of the Aurora Cultural Centre, she has been working from home since the start of the pandemic but, through the service, has made herself available for drives on evenings and weekends.

“It is important to understand the obstacles faced by seniors in the program to get them vaccinated,” says Ms. Taylor. “There is all the goodwill to make it happen, but it does require a certain amount of technical expertise. That’s what drew me to the organization: they were going to reduce all the anxiety for seniors by saying, ‘Just call this hotline and we will get you booked, we will arrange your ride to and from safely’ just to take that anxiety away. That was important to me because I think it dealt with a hole that we recognize in the system for we knew that the most vulnerable needed to get these first.

“We have stayed home, we have worked from home and we have the luxury of doing that – but, by the same token, when the vaccine opportunities came along, it was, ‘How can I contribute to this? How can I make it happen?’ The opportunity to safely engage with the public in a way that is approved, healthy and reduces anxiety? It was all the right fit.”

What also impressed Ms. Taylor about the Pinkcars.ca organization was their business-like manner. Almost as soon as she put herself forward as a volunteer driver, she was given everything she needed: a voluntary sector screening check from the York Regional Police, COVID assessment forms that need to be filled out every time a pick-up is scheduled, and tools to determine a schedule.

A good volunteer, she says, is a person who is organized and can put themselves into the shoes of the person they are assigned that day.

You have to be on time, be detail-oriented, make contact with your pick-up as soon as you receive an assignment and follow up with them the day before.

Perhaps as important is the ability to connect with the individual.

“It is a nice opportunity to chat,” says Ms. Taylor, a smile evident behind her mask. “Every single time it has been a nice opportunity. After a year of not chatting with new people really in a face-to-face kind of way, it is an absolute joy to get to know people. What I really love working with all the rides that I have taken so far is just that willingness to engage and talk. It is not this sense of nervousness that I’ve had; people are just so happy to sit down and chat with you.

“For a number of seniors, there are barriers in getting to the vaccination site, whether the family is far away and they can’t take them themselves, or there are physical barriers, there is still that total ‘go forward’ attitude that ‘I might have physical limitations getting here, but that is not going to stop me from getting to the site. I love that any site you drive up to has the friendliest, most welcoming volunteers who go out of their way to make sure that the person you’re bringing in is having the best possible experience.”

For more information on Pinkcars.ca, visit their website.

Rides are available to seniors 70+.

Given the current rate of vaccines in York Region, the need for drivers is expected to surge come June as second dose appointments arrive.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran