Free Ride For Seniors – Ride Along
NHCO Blog/Jeff Geissler/Communications Coordinator
Donna needed groceries but didn’t have a way to get to the store. Bob had extra time on his hands and needed to get out of the house.
And they both found a seat on the Free Ride For Seniors (FRFS) shuttle. The program provides transportation at no charge to those 60 and older.
Last fall Donna was diagnosed with kidney disease and was forced into early retirement from her job as a registered nurse. The disease limited her mobility, and caused financial distress.
“It’s a wonderful service,” she said about FRFS. “I couldn’t be happier. “Makes life so much easier when you’re struggling with things.”
Bob, a retired computer programmer, was spending too much time at home.
“My wife wanted me out of the house,” he said with a smirk. She saw a good opportunity for him on church flyer advertising volunteer needs at NHCO. He’s been a dedicated volunteer for over a year, helping at two food pantries and assisting with computer issues at NHCO’s offices.
He’s also a dispatcher with our FRFS shuttle. With a phone to his ear and a clip board on his lap, he schedules pickups and drop offs for seniors using the service. He also assists passengers on and off and shuttle, and provides support to the volunteer driver.
“Putting the thread through the needle,” Slim, the shuttle’s volunteer driver, said with confidence as he navigated the tight and curvy roads through Millvale. The retired city worker has been a volunteer driver for about a year. His credentials are impressive. Not only has he spent a few years working as a school bus driver, but he’s competed in school bus rodeos. That’s where drivers show off their skills on a challenging course similar to a county rodeo.
“I’ve never placed in the top three,’ the modest retired city worker added while reflecting on past competitions.
The shuttle soon arrived at Donna’s destination “At your door and at your store,” slim cheerfully announced. Then they were off to their next pick up at a nearby home for retirees.
Michelle hasn’t driven in a very long time and has been relying on FRFS for several years. Her therapy dog Charlie also rides along. Michelle is diabetic, and Charlie can sense when her blood sugar is low and it’s time for insulin. Being diabetic, healthy food is a priority. And FRFS is her only way to get to the store.
With all the riders safely shopping, the two volunteers took a short break and chatted. Bob talked about his upcoming vacation where he’ll be biking over 100 miles. Slim reminisced about his days as a local country-bluegrass musician.
Then the dispatch phone rang, signaling pick-up time.
A short line of post-shopping seniors stood in front of a grocery store. Bob quickly jumped out, grabbed bags of goods and loaded them onto the shuttle. He then assisted the smiling passengers to their seats.
“Hold on to your eggs,” Slim announced before hitting a pothole while leaving the parking lot.
Robert, a regular rider on the shuttle, is an actor with high ambitions.
“Whoa, take ‘er easy there Pilgrim,” he said in a John Wayne voice to the other passengers.
He then impersonated other characters, including Don Adams (Get Smart), Paul Lynde (Hollywood Squares), Cesar Romero (Batman) and other personalities from the golden age of television. His impersonations sparked fun memories to many of the seniors.
Soon almost everyone was safely home when the final passenger asked a question.
“Am I the last one,” She asked.
“Last on the bus, but first in our hearts,” Slim answered.