Did you know STEP offers free rides to appointments for your neighbors with limited access to transportation?
I sat down with the transportation coordinator, Claudia Kennedy, to learn more about it.
We talked about the program, the drivers, the riders and the challenges of connecting the two. Claudia explains, “There’s a lot of people here in St. Louis Park who need help getting places. 30% of our clients tell us they have no other means of transport. They rely totally on the STEP ride program. Some are very elderly or have physical limitations, which make getting to and from bus stops impossible. Others simply can’t afford to take a cab or use Metro Mobility. For them, our volunteer drivers are the only way they can make a medical appointment or come and pick up food here at STEP.”
Claudia wanted to stress, “These rides are given by volunteer drivers in their own personal vehicles. They don’t get paid for doing this, they do it because they want to help. They do it because they enjoy getting to know the clients and form relationships with them. Some of them donate their time almost daily. Others volunteer between busy schedules once every few weeks, when they can. All of them do it for free and the client they are driving pays nothing for the service. It’s absolutely free to the client”.
“It’s quite challenging sometimes,” Claudia continued, “We only have a certain amount of people who are willing to be drivers for us. If a couple of them go on vacation, or someone gets sick or work gets busy for them, all of a sudden we can be in a pretty tight situation. We almost always find a way to make it work. Sometimes clients are able to change the days of an appointment and sometimes drivers make an extra special effort. We rarely have to turn a client in need down. Last month we gave dozens of rides and were only unable to fill one request. I think that’s pretty good considering the scheduling challenges we face. Still, it’d be nice if we had a few more drivers so we would never have to say “no” to anyone…”
I asked Claudia about any memorable situations. Claudia had no trouble recalling one ride in particular that got very serious and had the driver going way above and beyond.
“Our driver learned the client he had just driven to a doctor’s appointment had been taken to hospital with serious health issues. As soon as he heard this he made the decision to go pick up a family member. He drove them to the hospital so they could be there with her, comfort her and advocate on her behalf. There was no question in the driver’s mind. He knew that’s what he needed to do for her.”
STEP drivers all receive a background check and must have a reliable vehicle. They also tend to be incredibly generous people who are very much appreciated! Does this sound like you? We need more drivers!
|Heather Alvey, my wife, volunteers as a STEP driver. Like most of us she’s very busy and can only do one ride every few weeks or so. It’s not much, but to the person receiving the ride it means a lot. Can you help too?