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Answering the call to lend a hand

A longtime volunteer, Bob Cummings has been a driver at Community Care Concepts since retiring from his teaching position at Park Manor Public School in Elmira. His efforts, and those of many like him, will be recognized later this month at the organization’s volunteer appreciation event.

“I was changing the laundry …and one of the ladies came barreling across the laundry room and asked me if I’d be interested,” he said of a CCC worker who first asked him to join.

Bob Cummings and his wife Elva in the car he uses to transport Community Care Concepts clients during his hours of volunteering. He has been a volunteer driver with the organization since 1997. [elena maystruk / the observer]
His instincts as a teacher are part of the reason he decided to take her up on the offer, he said. A dedicated elementary school educator, Cummings started his teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse teaching 19 students in eight grades. By 1972 he had a job teaching Grade 6,7 and 8 science and art at Park Manor PS, where he remained until his retirement in 1995.

“I guess that’s the nature of a schoolteacher,” he said. “As a school teacher you were helpful – if a kid wanted something you were there. I was in my class by 7:15-7:20 in the morning.”

In addition to his work with Community Care Concepts, Cummings has been a dedicated volunteer with the Elmira Sugar Kings.

“Right now I do education. I work with kids in EDSS, trying to get them on NCAA (teams), try and get them scholarships in the States,” he explained of his role on the team and his continuing efforts with student athletics.

The CCC tribute to volunteers is usually held in April during volunteer appreciation week, but had to be put on hold while the organization was moving to its new home on Arthur Street between Elmira and St. Jacobs. This year, the event will coincide with an open house so that visitors may view the new building.

“Bob is one of 160. Some help in various capacities. Some help on call. Some are called five days a week. Bob would be one that would get constant calls,” said CCC’s Karla Frey.

As a volunteer driver, Cummings transports clients with health or mobility issues to and from grocery runs and medical appointments, sometimes driving as far as Toronto and London, Frey explained, adding that the role goes well beyond simple transportation.

“It really is a partnership. A driver is not just a driver, he’s eyes and ears, he’s the visitor, he’s calling the hospital. Some of them (clients) are going for kidney dialysis once a day, some are going for cancer treatments in London and the family is working and they just can’t get there. Instead of hopping on a big commercial ride they can get in the car and talk Bob’s ear off instead,” she said.

Cummings often takes last-minute calls and is known for setting aside personal business to help out. It’s an opportunity he relishes.

“You make friends, so it’s interesting,” he explained, noting drivers usually develop a crew of regulars who request them.

“A lot of them, they are just really happy to have this situation they have this opportunity otherwise they have no wheels. And these people, they will do anything for you when you do this. I think they are very grateful,” he said of the rewards of volunteering.

With his volunteer time, he fills a need in the community, one that many people eventually have to face.

“I just felt that was something that was needed and looking at the fact that down the road, what would happen if I have to have help and there’s nobody there?”

The appreciation event for Cummings and other volunteers will be held at the new Community Care Concepts location at 929 Arthur St. on Sept. 28 at 1:30 p.m.


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