Charitable Choices: Gord Locke of Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society

Gord Locke began at Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society in early 2021 and quickly realized how important providing free, safe, reliable, compassionate transportation and peace of mind for cancer patients who have no viable means of getting to their essential treatment is. We spoke with Greg to find out more about the organization.

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society is singularly focused on providing free, safe, reliable, compassionate transportation and peace of mind for cancer patients in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley who have no viable means of getting to their essential treatment.

Volunteer drivers, using their own vehicles, transport patients from their homes to their treatment facility, wait during patient treatment and provide the return trip home.

VCDS was established in 2016 and is an all-volunteer registered charity. We currently have 310 volunteers. We have no employees, facilities, vehicles – our board, dispatchers and drivers work remotely.

What problem does it aim to solve?

A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Many patients may not have a family/friend support network or the financial means for transportation. They are focused on their future and shouldn’t have to worry about getting to treatment – we are there for them.

We ease the physical, emotional and financial burden for cancer patients and their families and ensure patients can attend all their treatments. Having reliable transportation with an empathetic and caring driver during debilitating treatment is a major comfort to patients.

The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society does not charge the patients for our service. We want to avoid issues that add to the burden of dealing with a cancer diagnosis. But we are grateful to those patients, their families and individuals in the community who do make donations so we can assist others.

When did you start/join it?

I started as a volunteer driver in early 2021 in North Vancouver and quickly realized how essential this service is to those in need in my community. Helping out those patients the majority of whom are over 65 is a very rewarding experience – it’s the right thing to do.

What made you want to get involved?

I have lost some friends to cancer. I was semi-retired and looking for an opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community. The VCDS was looking for drivers so that was perfect – I didn’t have to commit to a fixed schedule and they assigned me rides based on my availability. I quickly realized how important this service is to my community and when the opportunity presented itself I joined their Board. My responsibilities now touch on all aspects of the VCDS operation but I still manage to find time to drive patients. It is a very rewarding and humbling experience.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I started volunteering as a driver COVID was at its peak and impacting everything. Cancer patients desperately needed to find a safe way to get to their essential treatment appointments – public transport in most cases was just not a viable option and another ride provider discontinued services altogether. The VCDS implemented strict infection control measures and procedures that permitted us to operate safely during a very difficult time. Those rigid procedures are still in place today and protect our volunteer drivers as well as the patients.

How has it changed since?

Over the last year, there have been significant changes. VCDS expanded its service into Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby. Expanding into those communities will effectively double the number of patients we support. Service in those areas historically was provided by the Freemasons Grand Lodge of BC and Yukon – they moved from providing transportation through their Cancer Car Program to providing financial support for VCDS to provide the service.

We now provide service to the entire Greater Vancouver area as well as the Fraser Valley up to Chilliwack.

What more needs to be done?

We expect patient requests to increase by 20% requiring 26,000 patient trips to and from treatment involving over 600,000 km and more than 54,000 volunteer hours. Our budget is $475,000, primarily for driver-vehicle allowance of $.52 km. Our administrative cost is 4.37%.

We need additional volunteer drivers to address the growing demand for rides in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby.

How can our readers help?

As a community-funded service, we are entirely reliant on our volunteer efforts to generate donations and grants from foundations, corporations, patients, the public, municipalities, first responders, service clubs and associations and importantly from our own charitable drivers. Details on how you might assist us with a donation are shown on our website.

If you have any family members or friends that have a car and would be willing to do one ride per week to help a cancer patient in need please visit our website and sign up to be a driver.

Do you have any events coming up?

COVID has prevented us from hosting any sort of social or fundraising event. Before COVID we used to get all the volunteers together for a picnic every summer – we look forward to a time when we can do that again. Any fundraising initiatives like car washes or other events that require people to get together have also been curtailed.

Where can we follow you?

We invite you to like or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn where you will have the opportunity to engage in conversation and invite others to learn about our service. Please visit our website to find out more about us.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Dress for Success

Working Gear