Burrillville’s volunteer drivers getting ready to hit the road

Seniors enjoy a free lunch at a recent event put on by a group working to improve life for the town's aging population.

BURRILLVILLE – A national movement that aims to create a community supporting older adults is rolling in with a pilot program for Burrillville, and is now seeking volunteers to help with their transportation needs.

Organizers say you only a few spare hours a week to help out.

Burrillville’s new Volunteer Drivers program has come to town through a collaboration  between Age-Friendly RI and The Village Common. The volunteer-based pilot program will supplement the limited transportation already available to seniors, through drivers who set their own hours.

The transportation initiative is the latest development in the ongoing effort to improve quality of life for Burrillville’s seniors, a concern of many who have attended meetings with stakeholders over the past year.

“That was the biggest issue that residents had, was lack of transportation,” said Andrea Hall, recreation director for the Burrillville Parks & Recreation Department.

The effort to improve conditions for Burrillville’s older residents began in September of 2018, thanks to an initiative by Age Friendly Rhode Island, a non-profit coalition based at Rhode Island College that works to broaden services for seniors statewide.

With the help of local volunteers, the group has already helped to launch several initiatives to improve the quality of life for the target population, with successful “Lunch and Learn,” events that offer free meals combined with helpful resources, to the development of a comprehensive list of senior services.

Now, that organization has partnered with The Village Common to create a system that will help seniors get around, targeting the complexes at Ashton Court, Bradford Court and Stillwater Heights.

“What we are trying to do in Burrillville is a pilot program that’s just focused on transportation, because that’s what the biggest need is,” Hall explained.

On Monday, Nov. 18, the organizations will hold an informational meeting for those who might be interest in volunteering with details on driver and vehicle requirements, scheduling, time, insurance coverage and other safety issues. Anyone who would like to learn more about the program is invited to attend.

Drivers in the program will use their own vehicles, which must be in good working condition, and will travel to locations within a 25 mile radius. The volunteers set their own days and hours, and their personal car insurance will be supplemented by agency umbrella coverage.

Generally, they hope to run the service Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and potential volunteers only need to dedicate a few hours a week.

Seniors who need a ride will simply call a number for a dispatcher, who will look in a database to see who might be available.

“It’s only if we get enough volunteer drivers,” said Hall.

“You don’t have to commit to five hours every week,” Hall noted. “You’re just on a list, and if you don’t want to do it you can say no every time.”

At the roughly hour long welcome session Monday, drivers can sign up if they’re interested. Coffee and refreshments will be provided.

The program already held one informational meeting and signed up around ten drivers, but many more are needed to make it a success.

“We’re hopeful,” said Thomas Tatro, another local volunteer working with the groups.

The meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 18 in the Jesse Smith Memorial Library community room. Those interested can print out the form below and bring it to the session.

For more information contact Tatro at (401) 568-5596 or Hall at 568-9470.

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