More than half of our guests depend on our free, regularly scheduled shuttle service to travel back and forth from the Howie’s House to area transplant centers. This past year, more than 4,600 guests climbed aboard our six-passenger minivan driven by our devoted volunteer drivers. But on too many of those trips, guests were turned away because it was full.
The minivan also has limited cargo space for stowing oxygen tanks and wheelchairs needed by transplant patients. And squeezing into the back row of seats can be challenging or impossible for some of our guests.
With your help, we can make it easier for our guests to get to area transplant centers and #HelpShuttleHope
To meet the increased need for shuttle service as our occupancy grows, and to better provide for our guests’ comfort and wellbeing, the Howie’s House must purchase a new 11-passenger vehicle. Getting on and off will be made easier and faster by its bus-style folding door, low steps, a center aisle, and raised roof. Its larger capacity will enable us to adjust the schedule so drivers have more time to complete their runs and stay on time. It will also have a larger cargo area.
Our new shuttle will cost more than $50,000, not including gas, maintenance, and insurance. We are asking everyone in our Howie’s House community to please consider helping us make this a reality.
By supporting the purchase of the new passenger van, you will help to ensure that our shuttle service continues to meet the needs of Howie’s House guests. Transportation is an important part of the comprehensive services provided within our modest $40 nightly lodging fee. Charitable contributions to the Howie’s House make this possible.
Less stress and cost for guests
In addition to comfort and convenience, the shuttle helps transplant families save on the cost of parking and gas, which can add up to hundreds of dollars a month, and relieves them of the burden of city driving.
“Most of our guests aren’t familiar with Philadelphia and so they have no idea how to get to the transplant centers. They get overwhelmed by the traffic. And they’re already overwhelmed by their own situation. We’re trying to make it easier for them by providing these door to door transportation services,” says Joe Kauffman, Howie’s House Operations Manager.
No one could agree more than Diane Hems who stayed at the Howie’s House while her husband, Don, was waiting for his gift of life, a lung transplant. “Having the shuttle service available alleviated my stress and fears of getting lost in the city. Each day, the volunteer driver safely dropped me off at the hospital and then brought me back to the Howie’s House at the end of the day. There are no words to describe how grateful we are for the services provided.”
Claudia Fernandez often took the shuttle when her young son, Josh, was undergoing a lung transplant. “I liked it because I didn’t have to deal with traffic. It’s not easy driving around Philly when you’re not from there. I found it so convenient and helpful.”
Every ride a healing journey
The backbone of the Howie’s House shuttle service is our devoted volunteer drivers who last year made more than 1,500 trips and drove over 19,000 miles, expertly navigating city traffic and getting our guests to doctors’ appointments and hospital visits.
There are a dozen volunteer drivers who either work regular part-time shifts or who fill in when needed. Most of them are transplant recipients or have been family caregivers. They enjoy interacting with our guests and helping them through experiences they have in common.
John Branton has been a Howie’s House volunteer driver for five years and a volunteer speaker for Gift of Life Donor Program since he received a liver transplant 10 years ago. He drives two days a week, taking the afternoon shift when guests are usually returning to the Howie’s House.
Now retired, John was a small business owner and insurance executive. He says that he often shares with guests how the transplant enabled him to return to a normal life.
“The conversations that go on in the shuttle are oftentimes very emotional,” says John. “Not everyone winds up with a good outcome. So those kinds of conversations are tough. But even when it’s disappointing news, it’s better to share it with other people who can empathize and understand what you’re going through.”
Riding the shuttle also enables families the time to share their experiences with one another, gaining support and strength along the way.
Ashley Adams, who rode the shuttle when her husband Bobby was gravely ill and waiting for a lung transplant, found it comforting to talk with other families and the volunteer drivers. “It was really great being able to talk with everybody about what they’re going through. It does really help,” she says. “One of the drivers had a lung transplant so I was asking him a lot of questions about it. Bobby and I ended up getting married in the hospital and it was this shuttle driver who arranged for a friend of his to marry us.”
Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today to support the urgent need to purchase a new passenger van and #HelpShuttleHope.