WATERVILLE — John Bryant knows he’ll never get rich as a volunteer driver for Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, but it helps pay bills, and the reward he reaps from helping people is more than enough compensation.

“It’s very enjoyable,” Bryant, 65, said as he drove Thursday morning. “It makes you feel good. People are very appreciative. Some of them can’t thank you enough for picking them up and taking them to an appointment.”

Bryant, of Canaan, is one of about 95 volunteer KVCAP drivers who take people of all ages – many of whom are elderly, poor, suffering from an illness or special needs, or are disabled – to dialysis, doctor and other medical-related appointments, as well as to social service organizations and other places throughout central Maine. He doesn’t get paid a salary or hourly wage, but the mileage reimbursement he receives by using his own car helps pay for vehicle maintenance and other needs.

KVCAP is on a mission to recruit more drivers because of the demand for rides, and many drivers who are older head for Florida in the winter. The number of drivers over the last several years has fluctuated from being as high as 130 to as low as 70.

Officials said more volunteers like Bryant are desperately needed, with more than 30 still needed to meet demand.

“We’re looking to get up to 130 drivers. That will make everybody more comfortable,” said Sandy Burton, KVCAP’s volunteer systems coordinator.

Burton met Thursday with Steve Soule, KVCAP’s new volunteer driver recruiter; Delta Chase, director of transportation operations; and Jim Wood, transportation development director, in their Water Street offices to discuss the need for volunteer drivers. Such drivers use their own vehicles and must pass a background check in order to volunteer.

“These people do this job because they have big hearts,” Soule said of drivers.

Chase concurred. “Our staff are all here for a bigger purpose than earning a living,” she said.

Volunteer drivers such as Bryant basically make their own schedules and decide how many hours they want to work.

Some are retired. Some work full time in their regular jobs and drive for KVCAP during their time off. Others, such as Bryant, drive full time. They range in age from 21 to 80.

Last year, they took 124,391 trips to drive people 3.3 million miles, said Wood, who has worked for 43 years at KVCAP and built the volunteer program in 1987. It is funded by MaineCare, the state Department of Health and Human Services, agencies such as United Way, and grants.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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