With money from a Sisters Community Grant, Age Friendly Sisters was able to purchase cleaning supplies and disinfectant for the STARS volunteer drivers to use to keep themselves and their clients safe. STARS volunteer Annie Marland, left, met with Ace owners Daly Haasch and Brandon Beech to pick up the supplies which were sold at a discount. The red buckets were donated by Ace so each driver could carry their supplies in their car. photo by Sue Stafford
With money from a Sisters Community Grant, Age Friendly Sisters was able to purchase cleaning supplies and disinfectant for the STARS volunteer drivers to use to keep themselves and their clients safe. STARS volunteer Annie Marland, left, met with Ace owners Daly Haasch and Brandon Beech to pick up the supplies which were sold at a discount. The red buckets were donated by Ace so each driver could carry their supplies in their car. photo by Sue Stafford
“The service offered by STARS means we can continue to live in Sisters,” Joann Powers told The Nugget.

Powers is 87 years old and doesn’t like to drive in Bend traffic, where her husband Bill has regular medical appointments. By calling the dispatch center for Sisters Transportation and Ride Share (STARS) on Tuesday or Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Bill can arrange for a free ride to Bend and back with a STARS volunteer who has passed a background check and has approved automobile insurance.

“I call Tuesday and Thursday between 10 and 3 and give them enough time to find a driver for me. They like to have at least 48 hours notice,” Bill explained.

“In Sisters we don’t have good ways to get to appointments in other cities. If you hire someone, it costs $100 roundtrip to Bend and back.” So, Bill’s choices are to take the bus or call STARS. With his vision issues, taking the bus is problematic and the bus schedule doesn’t fit with his appointment times.

“I think it’s great,” Bill said of the STARS program. “They are all good drivers and very pleasant. During the pandemic, they are doing a temperature check when they pick me up, we both wear masks, and use disinfectant.”

“I would absolutely recommend STARS to anyone needing a ride to a medical appointment,” Bill added. “I think it’s a great service for the community and for me.”

There is no charge for the rides and drivers don’t accept tips. If a passenger wants to somehow show their appreciation, they are encouraged to make a donation to STARS, which Bill said he does.

Joann has been heavily involved in senior programs for a long time and was part of getting the Age Friendly Sisters Country program established in Sisters.

Another satisfied passenger is Lorraine Barrier, who receives rides with STARS to her physical therapy appointments at Green Ridge Physical Therapy in Sisters, following a fall in her kitchen which broke her femur in three places, injured her knee, and created the need for a hip replacement.

At almost 88 years of age, Lorraine has been a goer her entire life, rounding up wild horses, serving on the ski patrol, and being a pilot. Prior to her fall, she was walking five miles a day.

“I like to stay in shape,” Lorraine explained.

Therefore, her physical-therapy appointments are very important. Not being able to drive, she would need to rely on other people to get to her appointments. Her daughter heard about STARS and her problem was solved. With her husband in a long-term facility, the added expense of transportation costs would have been a burden.

“They saved my life. I couldn’t afford everything,” Lorraine said.

For three months, two times a week, STARS volunteers have picked her up near Holmes Road, driven her to Green Ridge Physical Therapy, returned in an hour to pick her up, and returned her home. She has also gotten a ride to Costco to get her hearing aids.

Barrier makes a donation every month as a way to say thank you to STARS. She would like to volunteer for them as a way to pay it forward.

“Annie (Marland) and Karen (Waddell) are helpful and understanding. With the isolation of the pandemic, it is so fun to have a chat with them on the way there and back. I think it’s one of the best things to happen in Sisters,” Lorraine said about STARS. “They are a wonderful group of girls. I can’t praise them enough. I’m so grateful. I’d really be in trouble without them. I’ll tell everybody about the service.”

During the pandemic STARS has expanded their services to include pickup and delivery of preordered and prepaid groceries, health care products, and prescription refills. More information on this service is available on the website.

The STARS program is one of the Action Teams under the umbrella of Age Friendly Sisters Country, which was established in 2019 with a seven-member board of concerned Sisters citizens. The organization has been officially recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the eight Age Friendly communities in Oregon.

To learn more about Sisters Transportation and Ride Share (STARS) visit www.agefriendlysisters.com and click on Action Teams. To arrange a ride, call the dispatch office at 541-904-5545 on Tuesday or Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at least 48 hours prior to your appointment. The rides are for non-emergency medical appointments only and are available to Sisters residents of any age.