This story comes courtesy of Robert Silver, business manager of Jewish Family Service.
Charlie Yonkers loves to drive and he loves getting to know people. He has worked as a taxi driver most of his life and has been driving for Yellow Cab since 1992. He also drives for Shalom Taxi, a program from Jewish Family Center, part of United Way’s network of care helping local senior citizens.
Shalom Taxi is a subsidized transportation service for senior citizens, helping meet four important transportation needs: to and from doctor appointments, grocery shopping, banking and personal care visits.
“We established ‘Shalom Taxi’ five years ago, and now we have 150 participants on our registered rider list. We have about 55 unduplicated riders using the service each month,” said an agency counselor.
Yonkers’s dedication to his older passengers is well-known throughout Memphis. On one trip, Yonkers noticed that an elderly woman who was a regular passenger wasn’t her usual self as he drove her home. When he noticed she was turning pale and sweating profusely, Yonkers recognized the signs of a possible stroke.
“He recognized the signs of a stroke from his many training sessions, which are mandatory for all drivers,” the counselor said. “Charlie doesn’t treat customers as fares. He relates to them as people. A lot of customers, especially some of the senior adults, consider him like a member of their family.”
It turned out Yonkers was correct. Instead of dropping her off at the stop and leaving her alone, he called a doctor and stayed until medical personnel arrived. She was immediately transported to the hospital. Yonkers checked on her every day during her stay.
It’s that kind of attitude – along with numerous recommendations from customers and colleagues—that Yonkers uses to help his senior passengers stay happy and healthy. The counselor compares the driver’s work with seniors with being on a mission. Yonkers is known to provide exceptional service when he’s driving, and often checks on customers he hasn’t heard from in a while.
United Way proudly salutes Charlie Yonkers for his dedication to his customers and the Shalom Taxi program, and his willingness to go the extra mile (even when the meter isn’t running).