John Burger connects riders with their destinations
For going beyond the call of duty, he is named Ride Connection's 2014 Washington County Driver of the Year
John Burger is a familiar face to many residents in the King City-Summerfield area because he has been a driver for Ride Connection/American Red Cross for 15 years, transporting people for errands and to appointments.
"I started as a volunteer driver in 1999, and I always tell the story of when I met with Debbie Buckles, who was the volunteer coordinator then," John said. "She asked me three questions: Do you have a driver's license? What day can you drive? When can you start?"
Later, of course, there were more hoops to jump through such as background checks and drug tests.
"I started driving the King City shuttle in 2001 or 2002 as a paying job, although it was not a lot," John said. "I retired in 2012 and now volunteer to drive the mini-van one day a week."
John obviously has been more than just a loyal driver all these years because he was recently named the Washington County Ride Connection 2014 Driver of the Year and was honored along with other award recipients from the tri-county area at a luncheon held at the MAC Club.
"I don't think I have any special skills or have done anything differently from anybody else," John said. "I've just done it longer. I guess this year was my turn. I don't think I do anything particularly different from anybody else."
However, Miriam Crow, the King City dispatch operator, would beg to differ as she is the person who nominated John for the award, writing, "John extends himself beyond the call of duty to service the riders (by) taking them to 'that extra place.' He is the first to volunteer to work for other drivers.
"He is always there to fill any need we might have, such as taking the vehicles for snow tire removal, changing the turn-signal bulbs on the vehicle and taking the vehicle to the local car wash. In the summer, John takes the vehicle home and does a wonderful detail job. Riders love him and have the utmost respect for him. He is 100 percent dedicated to the American Red Cross."
John calls the job fun, noting, "It's nice dealing with people. When you start feeling bad about yourself, you look at your riders who have bigger problems than your sore knee."
And although Miriam appreciates John taking vehicles to Les Schwab to get the tires changed, he admitted he has an ulterior motive: He enjoys eating the popcorn while he waits.
John appreciates Miriam nominating him and added, "I think anyone who likes to drive and doesn't have a bad record would enjoy doing this and getting a sense of satisfaction from it."
John and his wife Patte have lived in Summerfield since mid-1998; he worked for Hyster for 15 years and was the manager of its Canada operations, so the family lived there, and John and Patte raised their four children there.
For the next 10 years, John sold construction equipment. And before going to work for the Red Cross, John and Patte owned the Book Vault bookstore for 10 years in the Beaverton Mall, which later became Cedar Hills Crossing.
"When I was selling equipment, I drove all over Oregon and Washington," John said. "I like driving. I've had no serious citations since I got a junior operator's license at 14 in California and then my license at 16."
John's day to drive is Fridays, and he starts around 8 a.m. and finishes around 3:30 to 4 p.m. He doesn't have a set route, and people must call four days ahead to schedule a ride. John picks up people in King City, Summerfield, Mountain View Mobile Estates and Sherwood, "mostly within a few miles of King City, but I have taken people as far as Kaiser Sunnyside and Good Samaritan, although not so much recently," he said. "And I have picked up dialysis patients in Tualatin."
John drives the passengers where they want to go, which is usually to such stops at 24-Hour Fitness, the Tigard Senior Center, the Tigard Public Library and other places, noting, "It's pretty much the same folks every time."
The service is free, although the Red Cross suggests a voluntary contribution of $1.50 each way.
"Some people pay, and some don't," John said.
Shuttle driver Renita Hansen pulled into the parking lot as John was checking out the mini-van and said, "John is my superman. One day I got the flu, and he jumped in and took over my route. He should get driver of the century."
On the home front, John and Patte will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary June 9, and their children live in Canada, Australia, Tigard and Washington.