Where Volunteers Make a Difference

RSVP volunteer driver Mike Menard knows first-hand how important rides to medical appointments are to older adults and their families.  He was a caregiver for his brother and needed to find back-up while away in the winter.  He contacted RSVP, and we were able to help his brother with rides.  In 2009, Mike became a RSVP driver himself.  He also helps at the St. Vincent Food Pantry and recently served on a committee to find new office space for RSVP.

Mike grew up in Lombard, IL, the "Lilac Village," in suburban Chicago.  (At one time Lombard was known for growing a great variety of lilacs.  In addition, the police cars and garbage trucks were lilac-colored!)  He moved to Wisconsin to work for the Milwaukee Road Railroad and eventually became a developer of industrial real estate.  Mike and his wife Marita have four daughters and five grandsons.  He came from a family who felt that volunteering was important.  His dad provided rides to others so that they could get where they needed to go.  Like father, like son!

Over the past eight years, Mike has volunteered 2,500 hours with RSVP.  As an RSVP Driver Escort, he has driven over 25,000 miles helping older adults get to their medical appointments.  Many of the senior passengers he assists have limited contact with others.  We always say that RSVP provides "more than a ride," and Mike works hard to bring smiles to his passengers.  There is a lot of joking around on his trips.  When he arrives, he will often say, "Your chariot has arrived," or "Your pumpkin is waiting!"  Robin Heilprin, RSVP's Madison/Monona Ride Coordinator, says, "Mike is so wonderful to work with.  I know that I can count on him for enthusiasm, willingness to take as many rides as he can each week, cheerfulness with his passengers, dependability, caring for others, politeness, and willingness to make sure that everyone he takes to medical appointments is safe and happy."

Usually, Mike does one or two rides per day, but recently he helped four people in one day!  While volunteering, he is always on the lookout for others in need, often handing out business cards he has made and encouraging seniors to call RSVP!  RSVP passenger Nola says, "He is excellent.  I just can't say enough about him!  If I give him an estimated time I'll be done, he's there.  He never says 'no' to a quick errand - to and from my appointments - and sometimes reminds me that I wanted to stop somewhere.  When my husband passed away in December, I asked for him specifically because I knew I could count on him.  He is just excellent."  Mike sees a tremendous need for more drivers and has recruited friends to help.  He is quick to say that volunteering is a reason to get up in the morning.

Mike and Marita are members of RSVP's Leadership Circle.  He says he gives to RSVP because it is something that resonates with him.  He is attracted to frugality and says that RSVP "squeezes the dishcloth to get a few drops out of."  Thank you, Mike, for all you do for RSVP!