Thanks to over 1200 volunteers who donate their time and energy, OATS is able to fulfill our mission of helping those who rely on transportation assistance to maintain their independence.
This past year, OATS had the privilege of celebrating more than 57,000 donated hours, which equates to $837,292.Here’s more about some of the amazing people that help make OATS a resource for so many. You can also read about our Volunteer of the Year in the latest issue of The Wheel, and check out our volunteer video. New volunteer stories will be added from time to time so check back to see more. Zena Atchinson has lived in Mountain Grove, Missouri since 1967. Because she is blind, it is nearly impossible for her to get around on her own. About 40 years ago, one of her close friends noticed her struggling with this dilemma and asked her why she hadn’t considered riding with OATS. After doing some research and learning more about the services OATS had to offer, she found that they were a wonderful organization that would help her get her independence back. And, that’s how I just started riding OATS, says Zena. Unaware that OATS relies on volunteers to help keep services running in all 87 counties within Missouri, Zena wondered what these OATS meetings were that all her fellow riders and friends had been attending without her. She was invited to her first OATS volunteer support committee meeting by a friend 7 years ago, and now she is the president for the committee in Wright County. Some of her favorite duties as a volunteer include running fundraisers and informing people about OATS services. I’m always telling someone every day, Zena says.
Joan Kenslow, of Kansas City, Kansas moved to Belton, Missouri about 45 years ago. Shortly after moving into a new apartment complex designed for senior citizens, Joan happened to notice the OATS bus stopping by frequently. Realizing the convenience that OATS services provided for those living in her apartment complex, she began to schedule rides to go places, too. She has been riding the OATS bus for 12 years now. Joan started volunteering with OATS about four years ago and is the contact person for Belton. She plans the shopping trips and also makes numerous phone calls notifying the people on the OATS riding list when the bus will be coming to pick them up. When asked what her favorite component within her volunteer work at OATS is, Joan says it is being there to help people who sincerely need it. One woman who rides on Joan’s route needs assistance getting from her house onto the bus. Joan understands how grateful this woman is each time Joan unbuckles her own seatbelt, gets off the bus and helps the woman get on. She says the time she has spent with OATS has been such a blessing.Â
Joyce Becerra has lived in Gallatin, Missouri, for 34 years. She enjoys giving back to the community and has been a volunteer with OATS for about 10 years. She is currently the Daviess County Chairperson. The sense of community Joyce receives from her efforts is her favorite part of volunteering with OATS. She says she likes to interact with and get to know all the different people who volunteer for and ride OATS. It’s such a good feeling of all the things we do together, said Joyce. One of her responsibilities as chairperson is to fund raise for a new bus. They hold different fundraising events, and Joyce uses one of her favorite hobbies to help by quilting. She often quilts with a group of her friends, and she has sold her quilts to help raise money for OATS. Joyce says the service OATS provides is much needed and very important to the people in her area. â€œThe majority of people who ride do not have any other transportation.
Patricia Danner first got involved with OATS when she went to a committee meeting in 2008. Her husband drove for OATS, and she wanted to see what it was all about. She started volunteering, and last year she was elected as the chairperson for Randolph County. As chairperson, her main responsibilities are contacting people for committees and hosting fundraisers. She helps put on bake sales, sells cookbooks and, her favorite thing, hosts music shows. So far, she’s helped put on three shows. She says the shows are wonderful, have a great turnout and make quite a profit. They feature all different types of music, from gospel to country, and feature several local artists. Patricia has enjoyed the time she has spent volunteering. She realizes if it weren’t for all those who put their time and effort into making OATS run a lot of people would be without transportation and ultimately lose their independence.
Kathey Carr, of Vernon County, became an OATS volunteer soon after calling and collecting additional information on how to ride with OATS. Kathey decided to attend one of the OATS committee meetings in Vernon County. At her second com mittee meeting, she was elected county committee chairperson. She was given the opportunity to spread the word about OATS to the local newspapers, television stations and other media outlets. She began putting out flyers which helped increase OATS ridership. We went from 3-4 people in Nevada riding the OATS bus to about 20-25 people before we knew it, she says. There are just so many people here in Vernon that need assistance and too few services for them to get help, she says. Volunteering for OATS is important to Kathey, who tries to spend at least 60-70 hours a month helping out OATS. I even had to change my cell phone plan because I was taking so many scheduling calls from OATS a month, she says. Kathey has also helped post newsletters explaining how OATS works and teaching people how to use the OATS bus.