Across Greater Los Angeles, hundreds of people with caregiving experience are earning money on their own schedules by providing rides for kids with HopSkipDrive — and for many, the economic boost has provided some fun new freedom.
Consider Shannon Towler, who was looking for a way to earn some extra money to contribute to her family’s trip to London and Dublin this winter. Shannon needed a flexible work opportunity that would fit into her already very busy schedule.
Shannon not only homeschools her children, Mackenzie (16) and Nate (11), but also serves as a teacher for a local resource center and as president and board chair of a nonprofit called Family Centered Education of Los Angeles. She’s an avid athlete (she has completed the 575-mile AIDS/LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to LA twice) and a yoga teacher. “Clearly I have a lot of different things that I'm involved in, and they don't always fit into a conventional type of part-time work,” she says.
Hiking one day with a friend, Shannon mentioned her thoughts about earning some extra money for her family’s trip. Her friend suggested checking out HopSkipDrive.
In August, Shannon became a HopSkipDrive CareDriver, and she says she has found that providing rides for kids not only fits well into her schedule but also draws on her unique skills. “What I think is so great about HopSkipDrive, as a parent, is that it actually rewards a skill set that’s often overlooked and undervalued,” she says. “With HopSkipDrive, I feel valued in my experience as a caregiver.”
Time management, for example, is a key skill one learns as a parent, but it’s not easily viewed on a resume. And yet, primary caregivers’ abilities to keep multiple balls in the air can be astounding.
When Eric, who works full-time outside the home, needs to shuttle Mackenzie and Nate around to their multiple activities, she says, he’s sometimes baffled. “When he has to take over he says, ‘I just don't know how you do this — how do you get from one thing to the other to the other to the other?’" Shannon just smiles -- “I take a lot of pride in the fact that what I'm doing now with HopSkipDrive really is acknowledging that as a true and valuable skill,” she says.
Shannon also appreciates working with children and families. On one particular ride, she drove a girl home just as the girl’s parents were returning from the hospital with their new baby. The girl rushed from the car to meet her new baby brother, and the family thanked Shannon warmly. “I felt so honored to be part of that incredibly important day for that family,” she says. “I mean, who gets to do that in their day job?”
For another ride, the HopSkipDrive Customer Support team called Shannon to ask if she could pick up a rider an hour early because the child was having an allergic reaction, and the child’s mother couldn’t leave her job at a cafe. Shannon adjusted her schedule, picked up the child and drove him to his mother’s workplace.
“I walked him into the cafe, and she was so grateful. When another mother reaches out a hand to you — a mother you don't know, but you can trust because we're so well-screened — there’s just not enough of that in the world,” Shannon says. “That was a really great thing to be able to help her. It was just really meaningful.”
HopSkipDrive has provided meaning for Shannon’s own family as well – especially in the form of the money she has earned as a CareDriver, which added a little financial cushion for her family’s December trip to London and Dublin. “We knew we had the trip coming up, and we had already planned it out, certainly, but if I didn't have this extra money, it just would have made it a lot harder for us to enjoy ourselves in the same way,” Towler said.
Shannon is the youngest of eight children in a family that she says identifies strongly with its Irish roots. With the Dublin stop, she would be the first of all her siblings to visit Ireland. Walking around St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin with her family was like a dream come true – especially when they bumped into U2’s Bono, who happened to be walking across the famous park that day as well (trailed by a pack of paparazzi).
On the family’s first morning in London, they awoke in their Airbnb apartment to the soft pat of snowflakes on the windows. Shannon and Eric quickly woke Nate, who hadn’t seen snow since he was a baby. “We have video and pictures of him just gazing out the window onto the courtyard of our apartment as the snow is falling,” she says. “It was just peaceful and magical.”
Next up for the Towlers: Oslo, Amsterdam and Paris. And Shannon’s work as a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive will help get them there.