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Volunteers give Jonesborough seniors a ride to the doctor

Robert Houk • Dec 4, 2018 at 9:30 PM

The Jonesborough Seniors Center has launched a new transportation program to help town residents age 60 and older get to their medical appointments. MyRide TN Jonesborough offers "door-through-door" rides to seniors who sign up for the service.

Susan Katko, director of the MyRide TN Jonesborough, said the ride program is available to Jonesborough residents who do not drive, or have driving restrictions. Participants must be able to walk with a cane or walker.

Riders pay a yearly cost of $20, in addition to $4 per trip. Katko said the "first ride is free" for participants. The ride service is currently just for for medical appointments, but organizers hope to expand the program in the future.

Volunteers Needed

Volunteer drivers must pass a criminal background check and have a clean driving record. The program requires volunteers to undergo a training session to help them deal with riders and the program's website.

Katko said the town has already signed up 15 volunteers, of whom 13 will be drivers.

"There will be an ongoing need for volunteers," Katko said. "We ask drivers to do one or two trips a month. And you can pick and choose which rides fit into your schedule."

The MyRide TN Jonesborough program is operated as part of a $3.6 million statewide grant from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. Lee Gay, volunteer transportation coordinator for the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability, said his organization needs "more champions" like the volunteers Jonesborough have assembled for its ride program.

He said more Tennessee counties are attempting to start MyRide programs. Gay said the stories that volunteer drivers tell their friends about their experiences have helped to recruit others to the cause.

"What if it was you and you didn't have anybody to drive you to a doctor's appointment?" he asked.

Getting Started

Johnson County is the first county in Northeast Tennessee to implement the MyRide TN program. The program launched on Nov. 5, and officials say as many as 20 rides have already been provided. Danae Marshall, Johnson County's transportation coordinator, said the program has signed up 21 volunteers.

"They are mostly retired people and very dedicated," Marshall said.

MyRide TN originated in the Jackson area, where the Southwest Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability began the program in May 2017. Since its creation, volunteer drivers have provided more than 2,500 in rides in Madison County.

"Our area is very rural," Keita Cole, the program director for the Senior Volunteer Volunteer Network operated in West Tennessee, said at a kickoff for the Jonesborough program on Tuesday. "A lot of the people we serve don't have families to rely on to help them. This program is truly a blessing."

To sign up for MyRide TN, or learn more about becoming a volunteer drive, call Katko at 788-4770.

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