Normally, Harvey County Transportation Coordinator Karen Kaufman handles the managerial rigmarole for the department — taking calls, scheduling rides and filling out the necessary paperwork to get grant funding through the Kansas Department of Transportation — but every once in a while she gets behind the wheel and takes on some of the driving duties as well.
"It's nice to meet the people who you talk to on the phone," Kaufman said. "We, unlike a lot of surrounding counties, will cross our county border. So, we provide transportation for residents wherever they want to go, whether it be Hutchinson, McPherson, Hillsboro, Wichita; we're in Wichita about every day."
That means the department can get real busy real fast — like this week, one in which Kaufman has been filling in as chauffeur for several of its scheduled trips. Over the past few days, she noted she has been on the road almost non-stop.
Her commitment does not go unnoticed. While trips are usually reserved for county residents, Kaufman was quick to help out a visitor in need recently and the Newton Medical Center shared their gratitude for her assistance with the county commission — a surprise to Kaufmann — noting she was instrumental in making sure he was cared for in his hour of need.
Coming in by train, the traveler ended up in the emergency room at NMC with little to no resources. After he was discharged, Kaufman answered a call for help and made sure the visitor was transported to New Jerusalem Missions — so he would have shelter for the night and be able to make it out of town safely the next day.
"Even though he technically, I guess, wasn't a resident, he was here — and our service is within the county," Kaufman said. "We were happy to do that."
Making sure individuals get where they need to go just comes with the territory. More often than not, Kaufman said that is related to helping county residents get to medical appointments, but she said the department also often helps transport patients discharged from the hospital and there is even one citizen who it helps get to and from work every day.
How busy the department is varies, but Kaufman noted drivers can easily be making 18 trips a day (not including regularly scheduled recreational trips). As long as the department has 24 hours notice, they will make just about any trip necessary for a nominal fee.
Kaufman has been helping facilitate transportation for county residents since 2010. Prior to that, she was working for the Mennonite church and also volunteers her time playing organ for Eden Mennonite Church in Moundridge. Even before that, she volunteered as a Bible School teacher growing up, mirroring the example her sister and mother set forth — noting there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer — and she is happy to continue providing a service through her work with the transportation department.
"It's a little different than church work, but it's still helping people," Kaufman said.
For more information on the services provided by the Harvey County General Public Transportation Department, visit harveycounty.com or call 284-6802.