MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — The members of RideConnect Westchester believe that if an elderly or disabled person who does not drive wants to travel a few miles to the grocery store, doing so should not necessitate a $50 cab ride.
RideConnect, which provides referral services for the elderly and disabled on fast and cost-effective transportation options in northern Westchester, is currently making a big push to grow its volunteer driver program and is calling on locals over the age of 55 to step up.
“There’s such a need,” said Karen Ganis, director of the Mount Kisco-based program, which was introduced in the fall of 2011.
Other than in Mount Kisco, and even to some extent in Mount Kisco, Ganis said, “There’s no public transportation in this area, so folks that are older that maybe have given up their cars have no way to get around.”
Westchester County is large and thinly populated, which results in fewer transportation options, so the free program offered by the nonprofit Family Services of Westchester has filled a void, arranging rides for seniors to a variety of appointments, including shopping, banking, the hairdresser, church or synagogue, and medical appointments.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, transportation counselors search RideConnect’s database for appropriate services offered by taxi and limousine companies, municipal and town services, volunteer and church transportation services, and groups like Road to Recovery, which provides transportation to chemotherapy sessions.
Volunteering at RideConnect is open to locals ages 55 and over throughout northern Westchester, who will serve as drivers for clients. Ganis said there is an age requirement because the volunteers are covered under the United Way’s insurance umbrella for volunteers over 55, which gives them a secondary insurance rider.
“I’m hopeful as our program grows we’re able to eliminate that requirement,” she said. Transportation providers from any town are welcome to apply, but primarily come from Bedford, Katonah, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, North Salem, North Castle, Pound Ridge and Somers.
Ganis said seniors who live alone may become depressed if failing eyesight or lack of access to a car prevents them from being able to do all the activities and errands they are used to doing.
“Just because you’re older and not driving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be connected to the community,” Ganis said.