ECCHO driver gets awards

Posted 5/29/24

A local volunteer-supported transportation network held an event Thursday, May 23, to recognize Frank Garred as its 2024 Volunteer Driver of the Year.

The event was hosted by the Ecumenical …

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ECCHO driver gets awards


A local volunteer-supported transportation network held an event Thursday, May 23, to recognize Frank Garred as its 2024 Volunteer Driver of the Year.

The event was hosted by the Ecumenical Christian Helping Hands Organization (ECHHO) at the First Presbyterian Church at 1111 Franklin St. in Port Townsend. The organization’s volunteers drive senior citizens and disabled people who may not have reliable transportation otherwise. The volunteers commonly drive these citizens to medical appointments and essential errands, including grocery shopping. 

Frank Garred volunteered for his first ride on Feb. 20, 2020. After the pandemic brought the pace of the world to a screeching halt, Garred remained and became the first new volunteer for ECHHO in the COVID-19 era. Since then, Garred has completed 808 rides and driven 26,121 miles. 

ECHHO Operations Manager Paul Tumey presented the award to Garred in front of 26 volunteers. 

“One person may get this, but we all earned it,” said Garred, after receiving the award.

In addition to receiving a commemorative plaque for his efforts, Garred was awarded the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award. This national recognition is given to citizens whose service has greatly impacted their community. By volunteering more than 500 hours in just four years, Garred earned gold status, the second-highest honor available. The award included a gold pin and a signed letter from President Biden acknowledging his exceptional dedication and service.

Garred has been a key figure in Port Townsend since 1967 when he purchased and operated The Port Townsend Leader newspaper. He retired from the newspaper business in 2002. 

ECHHO began in 1997 as a small operation and by 2018 its volunteers had completed more than 1,500 rides for individuals in need. Volunteers assist citizens of Port Townsend, Port Hadlock, Port Ludlow, Nordland, Brinnon, and other East Jefferson County areas.

Currently, Port Townsend does not have comprehensive cancer care, and volunteers must often drive patients as far as Silverdale, Poulsbo and Sequim. Many drivers have recorded working 80-100 hours a month.

The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Program Manager for OlyCap, Robin Pangborn, spoke during the event. She said the volunteers’ impact on the community is beyond measure.

“It’s a powerful thing to have all these volunteers willing to step up — giving their time, energy and compassion,” said Pangborn.

At its height before COVID-19, ECHHO had around 50 volunteer drivers. Since then, the organization has just 35 registered volunteer drivers, with only about 20 active drivers at any given time, but the number of clients remains high. As a result, citizens in need sometimes may not receive assistance as quickly as the organization would prefer. However, the drivers were still able to complete more than 1,300 rides in 2023.

Operations Manager Tumey said that many volunteers travel during the winter season, and the organization seeks to find more volunteers sooner rather than later.

“The more volunteer drivers we have, the more people we can help,” said Tumey. “We are currently booking about two weeks out, but with more drivers, we could be more responsive.”

In addition to offering free rides, ECHHO lends reusable medical equipment to anyone in Jefferson County. The organization has over 2,000 items loaned out - including beds, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, commodes, lift chairs and more. 

If you are interested in volunteering with ECHHO or would like to make a donation, please visit