“Let’s spread the word,” Nancy Welch, assistant manager for the transportation program, told members of Rotary Club of Farragut during her address as featured speaker during the club’s weekly Wednesday meeting, March 27. “Tell people we have this program.”
The program, based in the former Sears building along Central Avenue in downtown Knoxville, currently has 40 volunteers on the roster — with 35 of those are active, Welch said.
Welch recruits, trains and coordinates volunteers who transport Knox County’s seniors and people with disabilities.
“We need volunteers for this service,” she said. “Our mission, as a non-profit, is to provide accessible and accessible transportation.
“(The service) is for those who need assistance, not just because ‘I don’t have a car’ or because ‘I can’t drive any more,’” Welch said. “It’s for those who have lost their ability to drive or take public transportation safely.
“If they can safely take a taxi cab or Uber or one of those programs out there by themselves, then they need to keep doing that.”
However, Welch said if a person finds himself or herself in a situation where he or she needs “a little extra help, that is where CAC’s Volunteer Assisted Transportation Program comes into play.
Its volunteer drivers, using an agency vehicle, take the individuals anywhere they need to go, stay with them and help them.
“It’s not just dropping them off (at their destination) and waiting for them to get done,” Welch said. “It’s actually walking them through door and helping the individual at the destination and making sure they get safely home as well.”
While doctors’ appointments are at the top of the list of requested destinations, Welch said people also ask to go to other appointments, such as the drug store to pick up prescriptions, church services, the beauty shop, barber shop, the mall or an eatery.
The program does not provide the service based on age or income, but she said clients do have to be Knox County residents and they have to need assistance.
“If we had enough drivers to do this (service) 24-7, we would do seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Welch said.
“It’s not based on a specific time; it’s not based on business hours,” Welch said, adding the program’s goal is to get seniors and others out of their home.
Otherwise, she said, “You are slowing dying of depression because you are watching everything on TV,” she said. “Or, if you can’t get to the doctor to see what’s wrong with you, your health is failing.
“So, we can get them out, keep them socially active, keep them independent (and) keep them happy,” Welch added. “We can go anywhere in Knox County.
“We have a flat rate of $6 round trip, but if they want to go outside Knox County, we can do that case by case,” she said. “We do charge more to go across the county line.”
Welch said even someone with a busy schedule can help.
“I do have some professionals that will give me an afternoon to take someone somewhere, maybe to the grocery store, or they will take someone to church,” she said. “As little as three to four hours are an average trip.”
For more information on the Volunteer Assisted Transportation program, call 865-673-5001, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit online at www.knoxseniors.org/vat.html