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May 11, 2012 > Friendly ride service treats seniors like family

Friendly ride service treats seniors like family

By Rachael Vander Martin

Rose, 96, has had her share of tragedy. A native of Ohio, she moved to Oakland in 1946 and migrated to Fremont in 1968. Her husband passed away in 1970 and her only child and first grandchild were killed in a plane crash in 1974. For the past 40 years, she has lived alone in her Fremont home.

Like many older women, Rose no longer drives. She had to give up her license in 1996 because of macular degeneration. Fortunately, the Tri-City area has a program specifically designed to meet the transportation needs of frail, elderly men and women like Rose. Since 2004, LIFE ElderCare's VIP Rides has provided 8,756 rides in a volunteer's own vehicle and 4,864 assisted rides on Paratransit, to both seniors and people with disabilities.

Rose signed up for the program in December 2009 and uses the service a couple of times a month to get to her doctor appointments and to do some shopping. "Without VIP Rides, I would be stuck," she says. "The volunteers are very friendly and always on time; I have never met one that I did not like." She says the program is the best thing that has happened to her.

One of her favorite drivers started volunteering with VIP Rides after her father passed away. She was looking for an opportunity to help other frail, elderly people live independently in their own homes. For someone with a deep understanding of the challenges of aging, the VIP Rides program was a perfect fit. What makes volunteering enjoyable for her is the wonderful spirit and tenacity she sees in the people she helps. Despite the fact that most of them live alone and struggle with day-to-day hardships, they still remain open, cheerful and friendly.

As opposed to other transportation options in the area, VIP Rides is a small, friendly service that has a reputation for treating seniors like family. Lori Vogel, who has been the coordinator of the program since it started, signs up new riders and also handles scheduling. She knows the special needs of each person and takes great care in matching them up with the right volunteer. Every month, 85 to 100 volunteers commit one to two hours of their time to help people like Rose. "This program would not exist without caring and compassionate community volunteers," says Vogel. "I feel so fortunate to have a group of people that I can always count on."

Without VIP Rides many elderly residents would lose their mobility and be forced to make drastic changes in their life. By donating just a few hours each month, you can prevent this from happening. Please call Lori at (510) 574-2096 to sign up for the service or Barb Proctor at (510) 574-2094 to volunteer. You can also sign up online at lifeeldercare.org. Not only will you be giving someone a ride, you may also be making a new friend.

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