December 26, 2002
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Mazzie Nipper and Marv Lamborg a recent trip downtown this month. Local senior citizens are able to get around town thanks to the transportation services offered by the Senior Center and Friends Care Community.

Cooperative transportation system is more than just a ride for seniors

It’s a rainy Thursday in December when the Senior Center’s van pulls into Mazzie Nipper’s driveway on High Street. The driver, Marv Lamborg, hastens to the front door to escort Nipper in a rain cap to the front passenger’s seat of the van. They are headed to The Shop in downtown Yellow Springs for Nipper’s monthly hair cut.

Nipper is a senior citizen who doesn’t drive. A few times a month she needs to run an errand, buy milk at the grocery store or visit the doctor, and she doesn’t feel like bothering her son, a police officer in town. So she calls the Senior Center transportation service for a ride, free of charge, five days a week, to anywhere she needs to go within reasonable distance of Yellow Springs.

This year the Yellow Springs Community Foundation chose to recognize the value of the transportation program by offering a $30,000 challenge grant to Yellow Springs Senior Citizens, Inc. and Friends Health Care Association to organize a joint transport system for all local senior residents. Leaders from the two organizations rose to the challenge, and the grant was approved this month. The Senior Citizens will get $20,000 to purchase a new vehicle, and Friends Care Community will use its $10,000 toward the purchase of a new minibus.

“Yellow Springs is a small community with two excellent organizations that provide services to seniors,” Community Foundation president Fran Rickenbach said. “We need to maximize the limited resources we have to coordinate efforts and integrate the delivery of services.”

Currently there are 30 drivers, most of whom are retired, who volunteer a few hours or all afternoon, one day a week or a few days a month to give their passengers a lift. They pick up prescription drugs, help with grocery shopping, wait for the doctor’s appointment to end, all the while providing companionship for an elder who might otherwise spend a lot of time alone.

“It’s so much more than just a ride,” Senior Center director Rodney Bean said. “Some people only want to ride on a particular day of the week because they like a certain driver who treats them special.”

The drivers also try to coordinate rides for friends so they can socialize in the van. And they sometimes take the long road home through Clifton to catch a glimpse of the fall colors on the trees, Bean said.

The van makes an average of 58 trips a week, and the program serves about 72 people each year. Even with some drivers using their own cars to transport riders out of town several times a week, not all requests for rides can be accommodated. With a second vehicle, the van won’t be overscheduled, as it often is now. And if one vehicle stays in town, the other can be used for out of town excursions for shopping and sight seeing.

After Lamborg sees Nipper safely to the door at the hair dresser, he stops in the Senior Center to chat with visitors and staff while he waits. The phone rings several times, and he listens to see if it’s Nipper calling for her ride home. Forty-five minutes later, Nipper’s hair is done and she is ready for pick up. Lamborg drives up to the curb, helps her into the van, and escorts her back to her front door. He is done for the day.

“I just try and do whatever I can to help,” he says.

For riders with disabilities, Friends Care has a van with a mechanical lift for wheelchairs. With the cooperative transport system, anyone in town needing such equipment will have access to a ride. The second vehicle at Friends Care will allow others to be transported even while the lift van is being used.

A central dispatch employee will devote approximately 21 hours a week coordinating the scheduling for all four vehicles.

“We’ll be pooling volunteers and drivers and generally sharing the responsibility” with Friends Care, Bean said.

The challenge grant is one of the biggest onetime grants the Community Foundation has ever made, Rickenbach said.

The foundation spent a total of $84,000 for 2002, as of Oct. 31, she said. Greene Metropolitan Housing received $1,260 for its playground on Corry Street; Kids Voting received $1,000; the Antioch Writers’ Workshop received $1,550 to develop a strategic plan for the future; $3,000 went to the Yellow Springs Men’s Group for the “Cost of Living Study;” the Miami Township trustees received $1,000 to develop a weight training program for Miami Township Fire-Rescue; and the Yellow Springs Leadership Institute received a small amount of start-up funding.

The Community Foundation also donated Volunteer Recognition Mini Grants to the Yellow Springs Police Department for its holiday clothing drive; the Emergency Welfare Fund; Yellow Springs High School for its senior citizens project, the under 10 soccer program; and $1,315 to the Girl Scouts Buckeye Trail Council for environmental restoration in Glen Helen.

This was the first year the foundation donated capacity building grants to the Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse and the Glen Helen Ecology Institute to help those organizations develop donor databases and encourage them to do their own fundraising.

—Lauren Heaton