2020 RAFT Driver of the Year
During national volunteer week, Robert Runyan learned that he was selected the Rural Alternative for Transportation (RAFT) 2020 volunteer driver of the year. Even during the COVID 19 pandemic, Runyan provided over 150 free trips to seniors and adults with disabilities who reside within the Berthoud Fire Protection District.
These trips were provided primarily from the rural county areas where there is no public transit available into Berthoud, Loveland and Longmont for medical, educational and employment purposes. Even with travel coming to a standstill during the “stay-at-home” order in March 2020, these trips resulted in Runyan driving over 3,066 miles for others using his personal vehicle. When asked about his contribution to Berthoud area seniors and adults with disabilities, Runyan responded, “I would tell people you are not only helping people get to where they need to go, the most fun is in the conversations with them and the stories they relate of their younger lives. I truly, truly enjoy listening to their stories.”
Runyan moved to Berthoud in 2014 and, thanks to his Realtor Marian Maggi, a RAFT Board of Directors member, Runyan became a driver for RAFT within the year. When asked why he likes to drive for RAFT he responded that he likes driving for RAFT because of the people he meets. He told a story of driving three young men in which one client brought a CD of western music to play during the trip and began singing along. Before long, all three young men were singing along and they all knew all of the words. What an unexpected, enjoyable moment.
Another story Runyan shared had to do with driving a woman who was in her late 90s. It was her birthday, and he knew she was coming up on 97 years old. To confirm his information, he asked her if it were her birthday and how old she was. She answered, “Old. I’m just old.”
Runyan went on to say that anyone one can make driving work for themselves as well as well for as the client,.“I drove one older adult to the Berthoud Athletic Club for exercise and while she attended a silver sneakers class I got in a half-hour of independent exercise on the machines. Then I would take her home, both healthier for the exercise,” Runyan said.
When asked what else he would tell people about driving for RAFT, he added, “I would tell people to realize you are helping those who cannot drive and would be stuck at home and you can enjoy being with them while driving them. Not only do you feel good about what you are doing but actually enjoy the trips. Besides, six years ago when I was new to Berthoud, driving for RAFT taught me the whole area around Berthoud. At first, I needed help with directions to the clients’ homes but have since learned the county network of roads and seldom, if ever, do I now ask a RAFT scheduler how to find a residence.”
When not driving for the award winning, Berthoud nonprofit RAFT, Runyan and his wife Verona are active members of the Berthoud Lyons Club. Philanthropy runs in his blood. He came to Berthoud a stranger and is now fully incorporated in the giving-spirit that defines Berthoud residents.
Should any Berthoud resident – new or established—be interested in driving for RAFT and experiencing the residents and beauty of Berthoud’s rural areas, the Executive Director of RAFT, when asked, stated that RAFT always needs new drivers. “Without our Chamber of Commerce town-wide events this past year, we have not had the platform to recruit new volunteers. If this is a volunteering job that a reader might enjoy, check out our website at BerthoudRAFT.org; visit us on YouTube; then phone 970-532-0808 to set an appointment with me — RAFT’s executive director, Ruth Fletcher-Carter. If you choose to drive, for RAFT, you too will experience the beauty of the back roads around Berthoud and have stories to relate of new friendships.”
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