Volunteer Today: Ready Rides
Through our series, “Volunteer Today,” Strafford Regional Planning Commission will be highlighting various volunteer programs in the region you can participate in to support your community’s transportation and economic development needs.
To kick off our blog series, we will look at Ready Rides, a program that offers rides to disabled and elderly residents 55 and up in nine towns throughout the Strafford region: Nottingham, Barrington, Lee, Durham, Newmarket, Northwood, Newfields, Strafford, and Madbury.
Transportation is an important part of people’s everyday life, but for many in our smaller towns, accessible transportation options are not readily available. Tasks such as picking up a prescription or going to a doctor’s appointment can become major challenges. Ready Rides relies on volunteer drivers to give fellow Strafford region senior and disabled residents rides to their medical appointments in nearby cities and towns.
Volunteers participate in background checks, orientation, and training to ensure they meet all the safety requirements to be a Ready Rides driver. After this stage, drivers can decide when and how often they pick up clients, according to their schedule. Karen McCullough, a Barrington resident and Ready Rides driver since 2013, states that the scheduling flexibility is what initially drew her to the organization.
“I was looking for something that wasn’t ‘You have to be here at 10 a.m. every Tuesday.’ I might have some months where I pick up 10 rides, and there are other months where I pick up four. We even have some drivers that pick up 150-200 rides a year.”
She shares that appointments are curb-to-curb; drivers pick up clients at their home and drop them off at their appointment site. Drivers have the option to wait, or run errands during the appointment. Ready Rides insures volunteer drivers, in connection with COAST, for rides to and from medical appointments only—this means no stops at Dunkin’s :). It’s important to note that Ready Rides also offers volunteer drivers a $0.35/mile reimbursement to cover the cost of gas, so that is a bit of a bonus to volunteer.
A Volunteer’s Perspective
Dianne Kelleher, another dedicated Ready Rides driver and Newmarket resident, joined the organization as a driver and board member in June 2014. As a retired home care physical therapist, she lends special insight into the needs of Ready Ride’s client-base.
“When I was providing home care for RVNA & H, I came to realize the great need for the seniors and disabled in our community to obtain access to medical appointments. Many are fortunate to live independently into their 80’s and 90’s, but have families and friends who work and are not able to help during the week.”
Kelleher transports from Newmarket and Durham for doctor, dental, and eye appointments, as well as local hospitals for various tests. Kelleher and McCullough both list dialysis patients as riders who require more rides, visiting treatment centers three times a week.
“Many communities have very limited, if any, transportation assistance and that is rarely door-to-door,” Kelleher states, demonstrating a need for organizations like Ready Rides.
Advice to Prospective Volunteers
When asked what advice they would offer to someone considering volunteering with Ready Rides, Kelleher emphasizes the flexibility of the position, where drivers can offer rides according their availability.
“You can volunteer as little or as much of your time as you like. It can be as frequently as five days a week, to once a month – whatever fits into your schedule.”
McCullough describes the importance of perspective when choosing to volunteer.
“Put yourself in their shoes. I often think: if I didn’t have anyone around, how would I get to my appointments?” This perspective is significant as many New Hampshire residents are choosing to age in place.
To volunteer for Ready Rides, contact Meri Schmalz at (603) 244-8719, or via email at email@example.com. To register for a ride, call (603) 244-8719 or visit www.readyrides.org. Once you register as a Ready Ride rider, you should call TripLink at (603) 834-6010 with your appointment date, time and address of where you need to go. Remember to book at least a week ahead!