Meet Gale Mason, Rides for Health volunteer
When Gale Mason, Rides for Health volunteer, brings Regina LoBello to her medical appointments, they both enjoy the opportunity to talk in the car. “I love taking Regina to her appointments,” says Gale. “We have a good time. I learn new recipes.”
Gale has been volunteering with Rides for Health for a little over a year. She was matched with Regina LoBello, who lives in Whately and is a home care client at LifePath. Gale has brought Regina to several of her medical appointments in that time.
Regina has vision loss, and she can no longer drive herself. “Gale has taken me to the retina specialist and she has taken to my cardiologist in Greenfield. The retina specialist is in West Springfield. I think she’s also taken me to my primary care in Florence.”
Rides for Health volunteers offer more than transportation. Trained volunteers like Gale also help elders in LifePath’s home care program to get from the door of their home into the car, out of the car and into the doctor’s office or other location, and make sure that they’re comfortable moving in a place where they may not be able to see or navigate very well.
“I am usually right on time,” says Regina, “and Gale is even more so. And we allow ample time to get to our appointments and usually end up waiting for a while, but not for very long. Gale’s very patient about waiting times. She takes a book or whatever to work on and doesn’t seem to mind. So that is a relief to me, not to worry about someone waiting for me.”
Gale, who has a degree in Public Health, was a nurse practitioner for over 20 years, and worked as a nurse prior to that. “I did rheumatology and oncology.” After retiring, she looked for a way to give back. “We lived in this area, but I commuted to Springfield. So my whole career has been working outside of these communities, which is one of the reasons I was so happy to find something here in this area that I can really grow with the community.”
When looking into volunteer opportunities, Gale says she was seeking “an established agency with the right goals, right philosophy – which was for me sort of the public health philosophy – and more personally being to do the things that I’ve seen in my own life and my experience are needed.”
When looking at volunteer positions with LifePath, a local nonprofit that helps elders and people with disabilities maintain their independence, the Rides for Health program resonated with Gale. “This is such a great program. I mean, I’ve believed in it from the start, from the minute I heard about it. I’m committed to keeping people in their homes as long as they can stay in their homes. It’s what I want; it’s what my husband wants. It’s what my parents wanted,” says Gale. “And I think that’s much easier done locally because we don’t have families that live all together in one community anymore.”
Both women enjoy their car rides together. “It’s a two-way street,” says Gale. “It’s not just me helping Regina. I get a lot from talking to her and learn more about the communities and it’s a lot of fun. And I find it informative. I’m learning all about the communities I’ve lived in but haven’t known much about. I learn about the different services in those communities. I am able to share that with other people that I encounter. So that’s all good for me.”
Regina knows it would be a lot harder for her to get to her necessary appointments without the Rides for Health program. “I would have to depend on family,” says Regina, “which would very difficult because no one’s around. I have a daughter in South Carolina and my son is Maine. My [other] daughter is in Beverly. It would mean that one of them would have to give up whatever they’re doing and get out of work and come and take me.”
As a volunteer, Gale values the support she gets from the program and Trevor. “Trevor’s been wonderful,” says Gale. “He responds very quickly. If I have questions – and I think I had quite a few initially – he’s right there with answers.” She also appreciates meeting with other volunteers. At a recent meeting, the volunteers agreed to serve as backup drivers for times when they couldn’t meet someone’s need. “It’s great having that support within the group as well.”
Regina is grateful for Gale and Rides for Health. “She is very professional and very kind and compassionate. I just think it’s a wonderful service and I feel very happy and blessed, really, to have her.”
Is volunteering with LifePath the meaningful way to give back that you’ve been looking for? Give LifePath a call at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 to inquire about volunteer options, email us with questions, and read about other volunteers’ experiences.