It hasn’t happened in nine years, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.
Bill Snyder, of Clearwater, volunteers his time coordinating pick-ups of Largo and Clearwater Morton Plant Hospital patients who are unable to drive themselves to doctors' offices.
All drivers, aides and dispatchers who help keep the ride service going are volunteers.
“I get it done. I don’t know how. (Not having a driver) hasn’t happened in nine years,” Snyder said.
Patients heading to Morton Plant as well as to appointments at any BayCare property can call Synder to set up a free pick-up. He then lines up drivers, which is no easy task.
“When I come in on Friday I have to find people to work the next week and sometimes it’s a hassle,” Snyder said. “We lose drivers and aides every summer. Some of our drivers are twice a week.”
Snyder may have trouble getting volunteer drivers from time to time, but he really knows the ins and outs of transportation.
After 20 years in the Marine Corps, Snyder worked for Gray Line Buses in St. Petersburg. “For 20 years I was operations manager for Gray Line and I dispatched for them sometimes.” Gray Line buses took riders to Disney World, Universal, and Sea World.
Now managing free rides out of Morton Plant, Snyder runs two vans every day Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. “We have two drivers and two aides every day that I have to find to handle that,” he said.
"A couple times they haven’t come in and I had to do something about that,” Snyder said.
But things always seem to work out. “Somebody always steps forward.”
Volunteer Services manager Suzanne Scott said that “somebody” is often Snyder himself. “He really has done a super job. He has a great crew of volunteers,” she said. “Most of these people - they either don’t have family here to take them or they can’t afford a cab or van, so it’s a great service.”
Many times patients are grateful, leaving donations in the envelopes on the bus. Others write him emails or mail cards to tell him how grateful they are.
“It’s a satisfying job,” Snyder said. “Most of the people I called for years, that haven’t passed away, know my voice now.”
Synder’s connection to the hospital goes back eight years when his wife Suzanne died of cancer. Snyder took to heart the kind treatment she received and the care given by nurses and doctors who helped her. A friend of his involved in volunteering inspired Snyder to sign up.
He also gets a lot of satisfaction working with another friend, his dog Buster.
Buster, a German Shepherd, and Snyder visit patients in the hospital on Fridays.
“I like taking my dog around. A lot of people who are up there (in hospital beds) thank me very much even when I tell them I don’t let him eat hospital food," he joked.
The Care Van runs from 8th Avenue in Largo to Union Street in Clearwater. Drivers also make stops in Clearwater Beach and Top of the World. For more information call 727-461-8548.