Letter to the Editor: Senior Ride Service Coming to Great Falls

A few months ago, more than 350 town residents participated in an online survey to determine whether there was a need among non-driving seniors in Great Falls for transportation to important meetings and errands.

A new organization has been formed to serve the need of non-driving seniors in Great Falls for transportation to and from important meetings and errands: The Shepherd's Center of Great Falls (SCGF). Its mission is to provide transportation and other needed services to Great Falls seniors trying to age-in-place. SCGF is legally organized in Virginia and has been designated a 501(c)3 charitable organization by the IRS. SCGF is affiliated with a national organization called Shepherd’s Centers of America (shepherdcenters.org) that focuses on services to help seniors age gracefully in place in their homes. There are roughly 50 Shepherd Centers operating across the country. SCGF is the seventh in Northern Virginia.

A recent survey of more than 350 town residents substantiated the need for such a service in Great Falls – 74 non-driving seniors completed the survey, and roughly 50 indicated an interest in a ride service to get them to important appointments and errands. (Some are fortunate to have driving spouses, drive with caregivers, or are able to take paid transportation.) On the volunteer side, more than 60 driving adults expressed an interest in volunteering to drive a senior, and another 70 expressed a potential interest but had questions about how it would work, including demands on their time and volunteer flexibility.

For riders (clients) this is how the service will work:

  • You register as a potential client, which includes one-time screening by SCGF staff.

  • You call in your need for a ride, for a particular date and time, with your home and destination information. Or, you can enter the ride request online on our website.

  • Your ride request is viewed by screened volunteers, one of whom volunteers to drive you.

  • There is no cost or charge to you the client for the ride unless there is a parking fee at your destination.

  • Rides can be one-way or round-trip.

For volunteer drivers this is how the service will work:

  • You register as a potential volunteer driver, which includes screening and a background check.

  • Once accepted, you receive training from SCGF staff.

  • You view ride requests at your convenience, online, anytime.

  • You only accept a ride if it is convenient for you and fits your schedule and preferences.

  • There is no requirement to accept a certain number of rides, or even a single ride. You choose what works for you.

  • SCGF carries supplemental insurance in addition to your normal insurance policy, and you can deduct miles driven on your tax returns as a charitable deduction.

The organizers are working hard toward launching this Ride Service in the fall. Watch for more details later this summer. A website is under development. In the interim, they can be reached by mail at PO Box 64, Great Falls, VA 22066. Or, email them at: thescgf@gmail.com.

The Board of The Shepherd's Center of Great Falls

Carol Edelstein, Jack Edelstein, Tom Eversole, Phil Pifer, Bill Rachal, Joy Trickett

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