A simple trip to the grocery store can be a daunting task for an elderly or disabled resident in Westchester.
Whether from the lack of public transportation options, prohibitive taxi costs, or because of a person's physical limitations, it is a problem that can strip many people of their independence.
RideConnect a not-for-profit, free service was launched to respond to this need.
Launched last fall, the program helps connect older adults, the disabled and home health care workers with transportation solutions.
Program Director Karen Ganis said transportation is a “huge” issue to many county residents—especially in Northern Westchester—who often become isolated and lonely because it becomes so hard for them to get around.
“We want to make it easier for people to enjoy life, to be mobile and to do things like go shopping, go to the library and the movies—even at age 95,” she said. “Many would be trapped otherwise.”
It is run through and helps clients coordinate the fastest and most cost-effective means of transportation—be it a local provider like a taxi, a Para Transit vehicle (an extension of the public bus system designed for people with disabilities) or a ride from one of their volunteer drivers.
RideConnect is currently assisting about fifty people a month, according to Ganis, by finding rides and connecting clients with one of the 20 volunteer drivers who offer their own cars and time. They ferry clients to doctors’ appointments, the supermarket, the hairdresser, cultural events or wherever they need to go.
“I can’t put into words what this means to me,” said Lenora Martinez, an 85-year-old Somers resident.
“I need to get out and get my chores done at the bank and the store, and I can’t afford to pay for a taxi all the time.” She explained that there is no public transportation nearby and that it is can be difficult to carry groceries. “The volunteers have been so respectful and so helpful; this service has been a godsend.”
According to Westchester County government officials, people who are 60 and older account for approximately 20 percent of the county population—one in five residents. They say that 5,500 of the over 840,000 individuals with disabilities subscribe to the Para Transit system.
For these two populations who struggle with the difficulties of getting around the county, as well as home healthcare workers, Ganis said, she is happy to be helping. And she hopes that as more people become aware of the service, more volunteer drivers will come on board.
“We recently had a client who needed to get to Danbury Hospital from Westchester and the taxi ride was going to cost $130,” she said. “We would love to have more volunteers to help clients like this.”
RideConnect is seeking volunteers (over 55 years of age) who are able to provide rides to older adults in Westchester County, with specific needs in the Mount Kisco, Katonah, Lewisboro, North Salem, North Castle, Pound Ridge and Somers municipalities. These rides will enable older adults to access medical appointments and shopping so that they can remain active in their communities. Click here for more information on RideConnect and volunteer opportunities.