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More helpers being sought for MyRide

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 6/28/22

MyRide Bedford is a volunteer-based transportation service for seniors, and they are in need of more volunteers. 

Starting in March of 2020, MyRide took a hit from the COVID pandemic and is …

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More helpers being sought for MyRide

MyRide Bedford is a volunteer-based transportation service for seniors, and they are in need of more volunteers. 
Starting in March of 2020, MyRide took a hit from the COVID pandemic and is now facing another hit from funding and rising gas prices.  
Robin Vaickus has been the coordinator for MyRide since December 2019. “A lot of things were appealing about it. It helps our seniors who desperately need it. It’s a fabulous program. We have a lot of seniors who can’t get to the place they need to go.”  
It is not income based, so the service is available to anyone who is 60 years old or older and does not require a wheelchair (volunteers use their own vehicle).  
They require a three-day notice for a ride from the seniors and only transport riders throughout Bedford County, per the program’s funding grant limitations. Vaickus said if they recruit more drivers they hope to expand transportation beyond Bedford’s borders.  
The rides are considered low-cost with a $25 membership fee per year, which includes the first ride. Rides must be pre-paid. This membership goes to paying for the supplemental and secondary insurance MyRide provides their drivers and to paying for the software called Assisted Rides.  
Volunteers can go online or to the Assisted Rides app to select a time slot and see which seniors need a ride at that time.  
“You’re not locked into a certain day of the week, a certain time. It’s very flexible to what your schedule is,” said Vaickus.   
They have around 10 rides per week, taking seniors to the grocery store (unlike public transportation, there is no limit on bags) or various appointments or even to visit with other friends. Volunteers can wait for their rider but are not required to.  
“We are door-through-door, and that’s the big difference between us and public transportation,” said Vaickus, meaning they assist seniors with walkers or canes from the door to the car and can even assist them in activities like grocery shopping.  
When Tennessee initiated the MyRide TN program, they had the goal of 1500 riders and they “blew that out of the water,” according to Vaickus.  
Vaickus said among their recruitment struggles they are also looking for grants to fund the program. She said the bulk of their funding comes from a grant that will end in December.  
“And that’s scary, especially at this time,” she said.  
Vaickus said she has also reached out to several local businesses and industries for donations. For example, many companies can benefit from MyRide—workers don’t have to take time off to help their elderly parents get to a doctor’s appointment.  
She said they started out with 10 active drivers when the program began in March 2020, just before the COVID pandemic hit. Today, they have four active drivers. 
“It’s hard; I understand. But really all we can do is offer reimbursement for mileage, whatever the state limit is for a nonprofit.” Vaickus has asked some gas companies to donate gas cards. They also offer extra car insurance at no additional cost to drivers.  
“But the drivers that we currently have, they love it,” said Vaickus.  
Among the active volunteers are Edith and Ronnie Greenhagen. The husband-and-wife team were one of the first to volunteer with the Bedford program.  
“It’s just a neat program that had more merit than most on a grassroots level,” said Ronnie. “It’s a good program that helps people who can’t get out of their home to do anything.”  
“It’s also a way to get to know the community,” said Edith. “Many seniors are here without nearby family.” 
Edith is retired and Ronnie is a minister at the Church of Christ in Bell Buckle. They stay busy and active and typically have three rides a week. It’s rare if they don’t have at least one.  
“Even through COVID, we drove,” said Edith. “We had protocols to keep our vehicle safe. But Ronnie and I never stopped, especially to help seniors get to the hospital.”  
They choose to wait for their rider, according to Edith, which makes the seniors feel like they can depend on them.  
The Greenhagens also choose to not get reimbursed for gas. “We wanted to be totally voluntary with our time and our resources,” Edith said. Even with gas price increases, the Greenhagens say they’re doing fine so far.  
Edith added that even if you have an older vehicle, most seniors don’t mind what they’re riding in—just as long as there’s AC and heat of course. Plus, volunteers, if they are comfortable, can drive the senior’s vehicle if requested.  
“There are lots of people here who need just a little help. It’s not that they need financial help or anything, they just need a little care and transportation and conversation. The people we pick up are so sweet,” Edith said.  
“It’s surprising once you get to meet and talk with the seniors the background that they have, here in Shelbyville especially,” said Ronnie. The Greenhagens said they meet talented artists, hard workers, and survivors of tremendous moments in history.  
“You get to know people and even become friends,” Ronnie added.  
To sign up as a volunteer, visit https://www.tn.gov/aging/our-programs/transportation-assistance/myride-tn.html. Volunteers must have a background check, a good driving record, and their own vehicle. Drivers are asked to wear masks if the seniors request it. You can also send a monetary donation to the Shelbyville Senior Citizens Center.