“The need for transportation has always been there, and it’s probably going to get more intense as time goes on with more people retiring,” she said.
When Borseth emerged into the lobby, Bailey rose to offer a steady hand as he shuffled toward her, balancing with a cane.
As Bailey went to retrieve her 2009 red Subaru Forester from the parking lot and maneuver it into the pickup lane in front of the clinic, Borseth said he appreciates the ride service.
“I’m 75 and I’m kind of slowing down,” he said. “I still drive, but my neurologist said my reflexes are slowing down and he said to stay out of heavy traffic.”
Borseth said his son, who has a full-time job, normally takes him grocery shopping and on other errands, but that’s not possible for medical appointments in the middle of the day.
Myers, who also is a volunteer dispatcher and driver, said the hardest months are February and March, because some drivers go south for the winter and haven’t returned yet. But she said WeCAB is always looking for more drivers, and the volunteer experience is “a hoot.”
“For people who live alone, you’re their social life,” Myers said. “I have people who start talking before they get in the car and talk all the way to their hair appointment.”
The ride not taken
Those connections can occasionally lead to sadness, Bailey said.
Earlier this month when a driver arrived at a home to pick up someone, the rider didn’t come to the door. The driver looked in the window, and saw the man lying on the couch, where he had died the night before.
“We all know this is going to happen one day, but it’s still really hard,” Bailey said.
WeCAB coordinator Fransen said the system doesn’t pay for itself. Drivers don’t handle money, she said, and riders are asked for donations once a month by mail on a pay-what-you-can basis, which usually generates about half of the suggested $5 round trip.
Drivers can request mileage reimbursement for gas, she said, but few do so.
Mound City Manager Kandis Hanson, also a WeCAB board member, said the organization received a start-up donation of $20,000 from Ridgeview Medical Center to purchase the ride scheduling software, pay for a phone line and print some brochures.
It received additional support from Ridgeview this year, and will soon launch a sponsorship drive to seek donations from some of the local groceries and other businesses that benefit from having customers brought to their doorsteps.
Another source of revenue may be selling the program to other communities.
“We’ve had neighbor cities inquire if we could provide service to them,” Hanson said. “What we prefer is to help them replicate the program within their own jurisdiction.”
Hanson said it’s heartwarming to see how eager volunteers are to help others in their community, and inspiring to see how it helps those who might otherwise become shut-ins.