By Gary Berlin, Via Vital Volunteer
February 1 was scheduled to be my return date as a volunteer grocery delivery driver for Via. It had been months since I last drove for Via, and I was happy to hear of the opportunity to pick up groceries at the Longmont Food Bank and do a socially distant “knock, drop, and run” delivery. Equally essential and more self-serving, I looked forward to getting out of my house and seeing scenery other than my television set, computer, and mindless books.
Days before my grocery delivery start date, Chris Baker sent me an email asking whether I would be willing to drive a client round-trip from her home in Boulder to her doctor’s office in Fort Collins. I was anxious to ride in a closed car with another person due to COVID-19 concerns; I had only ridden in a car with five people other than my wife since the first week of March, so I was reluctant to say yes.
I asked Chris if she would inquire whether the client had been vaccinated and practicing social distancing. Chris replied within 30 minutes that the client, Mary P., had been vaccinated and appropriately distancing. With Chris’s reassurance, I agreed to drive Mary to and from her appointment.
I arrived at Mary’s house, greeted, and escorted my masked passenger into the van, helped her with her seat belt, and headed for Fort Collins. Not long into our trip, Mary (who asked me to call her Ellen) shared information with me about how she had lived in Gold Hill since 1971 but recently rented a house in Boulder so that Hospice could comfort her ailing husband.
Since I had worked in Boulder for many years and knew the area around Gold Hill and some of the residents, Ellen and I soon chatted about people and places we knew like it was “old home week.” Ellen was such a joy to visit with, and she couldn’t say enough good things about Via, especially singing the praises of Lisa Bitzer, a woman she had never met before but who arranged her four times/year transport to Fort Collins.
During our conversation, I learned that Ellen and I knew an individual I had hired many years before. Ellen reported that she and her family, and this individual’s family had been very close friends and neighbors. Ellen and I talked about this individual and his family and how she missed visiting with them. With Ellen’s permission, I promised to contact the individual I knew and inform him of her husband’s failing health.
I arrived home an hour after returning Ellen to her rental house in Boulder and typed an email to my friend advising him of my recent acquaintance with Ellen and her husband’s failing health. The following night, I received an email from my friend, and he recited his emotional call reacquainting himself with Ellen and knowing that he possibly had his final opportunity to communicate with Ellen’s husband.
Just like the Wizard of Oz, this connection was made possible by “the woman behind the dark curtain,” Lisa Bitzer and Via offering a person in need a simple ride to Fort Collins.
Nice job, Lisa!