Chauffeur Service Provides a Lift, Not Just a Ride
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Rhonda Greer has had many jobs during her 25-year career in the business world. She worked in the marketing department for a Fortune 500 company, managed the office of a consulting firm and trained developers to use software to plan multimillion-dollar projects. Most recently, she has become a chauffeur.
She drives senior citizens around. For a few hours each day, the 53-year-old Potomac Falls resident gets in her white Lexus sedan and pulls up to apartment buildings or assisted living facilities in Annandale or Washington. She escorts her clients from their rooms, sometimes folding their wheelchairs and placing them in the trunk, and she makes sure the seniors are comfortably buckled in. Then she takes them to their hair dresser, to church activities, the podiatrist -- anywhere they want to go.
Greer planned to retire after she married a marketing executive a few years ago. But she ended up taking a part-time job with Buckley's for Seniors, a McLean-based company that offers transportation and nonmedical assistance to seniors.
As more Americans grow older, the number of businesses catering to their daily needs, such as getting dressed or staying organized, is multiplying. Local agencies on aging and publications such as the Guide to Retirement Living are continually updating their listings to keep seniors connected to services in a rapidly growing industry.
Buckley's for Seniors was founded last year by a 32-year-old lawyer named Buckley Kuhn.
"We try to stand in for their son or daughter who, for whatever reason, can't be there," Kuhn said. Rather than provide traditional services, such as bathing, dressing or housekeeping, Buckley's employees help with the extra things: They balance checkbooks, pick up dry cleaning or library books, fix jammed DVD players or call a plumber to make sure the sink gets unclogged. They can also give someone a ride to her colonoscopy. The clients pay $45 an hour.
Kuhn came up with the idea to start the company while working with her mother, Janet L. Kuhn, an elder law lawyer.
After a client once offered to pay Buckley Kuhn to run to the store for some ice cream, she started thinking. When another client wanted to hire someone to accompany her to the Smithsonian for the afternoon, Kuhn said she realized there were people who had money and wanted certain services but couldn't find them.
At the same time, Kuhn was looking for a flexible job that would keep her close to home and her two children. To help get the business off the ground in April 2005, she recruited some high school friends who were in similar situations -- on leave from their careers or caring for young children and pursuing advanced degrees. Together, they put their skills to use running errands and checking off items on another generation's to-do list.
The staffers have flexible schedules and earn $17 to $20 an hour.
"These are professional women who don't happen to be in the professional workforce," said Tamara Clarke, 32, the company's vice president, who is pursuing a degree in international politics at George Mason University and has three children at home.
"We come in and think: What can we do to make your life easier? Then we apply those professional skills to the home," she said.