For 13 years, the DVTA has been serving valley seniors and disabled residents with free door-to-door transportation to shopping destinations, adult day care, and medical appointments.
According to special programs manager Jan Terk, who has been running the program since its inception, bringing a group to an activity or meal is often an easier task than helping an individual to a specific medical appointment. That is why the DVTA is always looking for volunteers who want to help their neighbors.
Funded by a grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the elderly and disabled transportation service covers Readsboro, Halifax, Whitingham, Wilmington, Dover, and Wardsboro, and provides daily rides to congregate meal sites in Jacksonville, Halifax, and Readsboro. Other services include shopping trips to Bennington, and daily service to the Gathering Place adult center in Brattleboro. Rides to medical appointments are also provided by volunteer drivers in their own cars, tailored to the individual needs of the rider.
Terk says this volunteer service is special in that it recognizes the unpredictability of medical appointments. “Most folks who are going to the doctor are going in one direction while another person needs to go in another direction, maybe one to Brattleboro and one to Bennington, and it’s generally folks who need door-to-door service,” said Terk.
The service takes people to local appointments as well as appointments at North Adams Regional Hospital, and as far away as Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Albany Medical Center. Terk says the two programs served around 75 people in 2012, and at least half of those were served by a volunteer driver.
According to Terk, having both the van program for groups and individual drivers also makes sense economically. “We can bring folks to meals and gatherings with vans efficiently because there are a lot of folks on board. With the medical trips, they are individuals going in all different directions so really the best economical way to do it, the best way to stretch our dollars as far as they can go, is with volunteers.” Terk also said volunteers are reimbursed for their mileage.
While winter is a slower season for the program, Terk says that improving weather increases the demand for rides, and because volunteer drivers come and go seasonally, the DVTA would like to add at least a dozen more drivers. The more drivers the DVTA has, the more availability and flexible time frames are available for their patrons.
Terk was specifically hired to run the elderly and disabilities program, and says it is gratifying to help such a widespread collection of valley residents. “It serves our neighbors” said Terk. “Some have no other way, or have a difficult time getting to doctor appointments. It’s rewarding work.”
The program began with just a few volunteers over the first few years and now has about a dozen.
To volunteer, or inquire about rides, contact Terk at (802) 464-8487.