Faith in Action volunteer driver Jo Anne Cole arrives to pick up Don and Anna Darling for a trip to a doctor's appointment on Dec. 4, 2012. Faith in Action is growing and expanding into the Downs area, thanks to an increase in volunteers.

NORMAL — A volunteer-driven organization that helps to keep older adults with health needs in their homes by providing transportation to medical and other appointments and supermarkets is expanding into the Downs area.

Faith in Action has grown to provide services to seniors in Downs, thanks to an increase in volunteer drivers, including a dozen volunteers in the Downs area, said Faith in Action Executive Director Doretta Herr.

"I'm very excited to be able to say that we are expanding our services," Herr said Monday. "But this organization is possible thanks to volunteers and we couldn't expand to other towns if we couldn't recruit additional volunteers."

Faith in Action provides services in Bloomington, Normal, Heyworth, Hudson, Towanda and Downs. Herr said she is open to expanding services to other McLean County communities provided there are enough volunteers from those towns.

Faith in Action's trained volunteers drive people age 60 and older to medical appointments and a limited number of visits to grocery stores and other appointments. The organization receives no state or federal money, relying on donations from church congregations, community members and businesses as well as fundraising.

When the growth in the number of new care receivers outpaced the number of new volunteers, Herr was forced to place a temporary hold on new care receivers last October.

But an increase in volunteers allowed Herr to lift the ban earlier this year. The organization has 521 volunteers who provide rides to 707 seniors with medical needs, she said.

"The seniors need the services, I believe, because there are fewer options for medical transportation," Herr said. "Volunteers like it because it provides them with a flexible volunteer opportunity."

Darla Lanchester of Downs, a Faith in Action volunteer driver for 1½ years, was interested in providing seniors in the Downs area with rides to medical appointments and connected her church, Downs United Methodist Church, with Faith in Action. The organization conducted a volunteer training at the church and the result was a dozen new Downs-area volunteers, including several congregants from the Methodist church.

"I'm ecstatic," Lanchester said. "Downs' folks searching for assistance have a way to get that now."

Older adults may apply to become care receivers by calling 309-827-7780. Potential volunteers may call that number or email silvia@bnfia.org.

Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech


Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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