Rick Manungus helped Guadalupe Abarquis into a city van Wednesday at the Hotel Street stop near Nuuanu Avenue. Manungus is an American Savings Bank manager who volunteered to drive the van for senior citizens and others in need during the bus strike.

Volunteer finds driving
city van rewarding

Rick Manungus said he felt like a taxicab driver and bartender each time he drove a van to transport senior citizens stranded by the monthlong bus strike.

The seniors, many on the way to see their doctors, unloaded their personal concerns as if talking to a friend or favorite bartender, Manungus said.

"They all love to talk -- sometimes six people at once are talking to me," he said. "They talk about ... how their bodies are breaking down and they have to see the doctors more often. That's the rewarding part of it all."

Manungus said he'll miss driving the seniors when they return to catching the bus next week.

"The passengers who are my clients got to know the other side of me," not just the person who is the branch manager of a bank, he said.

Manungus was one of the first American Savings Bank employees to volunteer to drive a city-sponsored van as soon as help was requested in the second week of September.

About 25 American Savings employees joined, along with employees of other members of the Business Roundtable, which includes Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank and the Hawaii Medical Service Association, according to Ben Lee, city managing director.

Some 400 senior citizens a day took advantage of the free service, according to city spokeswoman Carol Costa.Costa said most of the 50 or so drivers were volunteers, "making a huge difference in keeping the system running."

"Everyone is telling me they enjoy doing it and giving back to the community," she said. "The seniors are like members of their own family, and they are so appreciative of the time we're taking to get them out of their homes."

The van service for seniors had to be "extremely flexible" and was a "slower process" of transportation because it had "to be absolutely certain we pick them up (from their appointments)."

"We don't want anyone to be stranded," Costa said.

"Some seniors needed time extensions, or in one instance, someone forgot her medication in the van and the driver had to deliver it to her home," she added.

Quite a few of the senior citizens Manungus picked up were his customers from American Savings Bank's Kamehameha Shopping Center branch, where he is the manager.

"They are very, very grateful," he said. "They've even offered me money, which I can't accept. They really, really enjoy seeing me and ask me if I've changed my day job."

One man he picked up while driving the Kaneohe route said he felt stranded and "like a prisoner in his own home" because he depended on public transportation. The senior citizens needed to get to doctor appointments, the market and the bank to pay their bills, the riders told Manungus.

Manungus took time away from work once or twice a week to do a four-hour shift. He said he liked to drive the Kalihi-area shuttle because he wanted to give something back to the community.

"I don't count it as real work; it's something I enjoy doing," he said.

Manungus said he learned a lot -- "that we have really sincere people on the island who would take time off from work to help the public."


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