Mike McAllister has lived in Brecksville his whole life. After he retired as an electrician, he decided it was time to give back.
McAllister began volunteering as a driver for the . A few times a month, he hops behind the steering wheel of one of the department’s cars, vans or buses to drive his fellow residents wherever they need to go.
“Within our driver corps there is a nucleus of volunteers who drive frequently…at least once a week and sometimes more often than that. They each total 400 - 800 volunteer hours a year!! Mike McAllister is a member of that nucleus,” Ted Lux, director of the department, said in an email. “And if you're in a pinch Mike always bails us out.”
The volunteer drivers take local senior citizens and residents with disabilities on errands and outings, from grocery trips to meetings to doctor’s appointments, McAllister said.
Those trips have helped McAllister to meet plenty of people around the community, but residents may also know him from one of his other passions: vintage cars and miniature ponies. McAllister has taken part in for about the past 40 years—driving one of his Model A or Model T Fords—as well as the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Cleveland.
And he’s cut back on the number of miniature ponies he has, but his nine grandchildren won’t quite let him sell all of them yet. He started out buying them for his five children—Tracey, Sean, Mollie, Maureen and Kevin—when they were young. His children and their friends were always lined up for rides, he said. He began to get more and more, selling some and keeping others.
McAllister said most of his children still live close by, but his wife—Patricia, his high school sweetheart—died about 12 years ago. His hobbies help keep him busy, but he makes time for the volunteer work.
“It’s a commitment to do what you can do,” he said.
The volunteers get called a few times a month with their upcoming schedule. McAllister said he sometimes picks residents up at their homes, and other times they meet at the Human Services or . It can be a shock to older residents who have to give up their license, he said, because they then have to depend on others. The program helps ease that.
But it’s not just the residents who benefit.
The trips to places like dialysis centers remind him to be thankful. And most of the residents are cheerful, glad for the help. Those trips are the most rewarding, McAllister said. He gets to meet many people on his drives, people who share the stories of their lives. He has “to be a good listener to do that, but it’s great.”
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