When the McLean resident retired from practicing law, he knew he wanted to give back to the community. But Turco did not want to get stuck in a volunteer job that interfered with his ability to work out, travel or otherwise enjoy his retirement. He pursed a few options before landing on volunteer driving as the “perfect opportunity” for his busy schedule.
“When you are a volunteer driver, you have absolute flexibility to work as much or as little as you wish,” says Turco, 68. “If you have a yen to pick up a ride, you can pick one up. But if you want to go on vacation or if the Nats are playing an afternoon game, you don’t have to worry about finding a replacement or missing a shift. It’s perfect for people who have other things going on, but want to help.”
Despite his “fear of commitment,” Turco has displayed a dedication to volunteer driving for the Shepherd’s Center of Mclean-Arlington-Falls Church (SCMAFC). He says he averages about two to four rides per week. And recently, Volunteer Arlington recognized him with the RSVP award, which he will receive during the “Arlington Cares” program held July 23 at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The RSVP award is given to a volunteer who is 55-years-old or older and making a valuable, lasting impact in the community. Turco gave the most rides for SCMAFC in 2018.
With his signature self-deprecating humor and quirky perspective, Turco downplayed the significance of his contribution to SCMAFC: “We’re biologically programmed to help one another.”
Mark Turco describes himself as a “commitment-phobe.”
Born in St. Louis, Turco went to Columbia University and Georgetown University Law Center. He practiced environmental litigation for 35 years before retiring in February 2017. A self-described introvert, Turco admits that he was anxious before his first volunteer drive.
“I was nervous about being able to chat with people. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to be in a car with a complete stranger,” says Turco. “I was nervous about awkward silences. But what I found was there is something about being in a car with a stranger that is conducive to conversations.”
These days, Turco and his riders end up in deep discussions on a variety of topics, from Northern Virginia history to Chinese environmental issues.
“Almost all of our clients are interesting,” says Turco. “They’ve all had lives. They are from all over the world. If nothing else, you get a few interesting travel tips.”
Turco adds that many of the clients he drives seem eager for conversation: “Some of the clients are widows or widowers. They can have constricted social lives. Some of them seem to relish just the opportunity to speak to someone.”
Turco urges his fellow retirees who enjoy driving to find time in their schedules to give volunteer rides.
“It’s not a big, heavy lift,” says Turco. “All you need is a car and to know how to drive.”
(Turco drives a stick shift 2005 Saturn Ion.)
Interested in becoming a volunteer driver? It’s so easy to start! hen you are a volunteer driver, you have absolute flexibility to work as much or as little as you wish.