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Transportation program improves quality of life for seniors and disabled people

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Jay Maloney of Sandy, right, assists Robert Morris Jones of Sandy into his vehicle to begin a return ride to his home. Maloney has been volunteering at the Sandy Community Center to drive his vehicle and assist disabled and elderly people for about five months, but he served in a similar volunteer role for several years in Bremerton, Wash., before moving to Sandy.Counties and cities throughout Oregon offer services for little or no cost to aid people struggling to get their essential needs met.

In Clackamas County, transportation is being provided at no cost to people who otherwise would have the quality of their lives threatened.

The program is called Transportation Reaching People, said its director, Eileen Collins.

A similar program, mainly for people living in Sandy, is called Sandy TRP, said Sandy’s client services coordinator, Cami Henderson, although people in need of a ride can call either agency.

The following description of each program will help readers decide if they feel a need to assist by driving or by connecting a person in need with the program.

Transportation Reaching People

This Clackamas County program serves some of the most vulnerable residents of the county. Based on the source of funding, Collins said, some are served because of disabilities while others are served because of age and need.

That need could be for transportation for medical procedures as well as preventive care, essential errands, picking up food boxes at nutrition sites, even recreation or social activities.

The rides are available on a priority basis, with medical rides unlimited and one non-medical ride per week. But some notice is necessary to schedule a ride.

Drivers who have passed the scrutiny of program requirements use their own vehicles and are reimbursed for the mileage. Friends or family members also can qualify to offer the transportation, with support by mileage reimbursement.

To qualify as a driver, a person must go through the training offered by the county.

“We are always in need of volunteer drivers,” Collins said, “especially in the outlying areas.”

TRP also offers what Collins called “travel training” to the elderly and disabled who have public transportation available but are not confident in its use.

TRP also is part of a transportation consortium that in the eastern part of the county serves people living in or near Estacada, Damascus, Boring, Sandy and the mountain villages.

Generally, TRP serves people who otherwise might be left without access to medical appointments or grocery shopping and the things that keep them actively living in their own homes, Collins said, instead of having to move to assisted living facilities because they don’t have transportation.

For more information or to volunteer for this county program, call Collins at 503-655-8604.

Sandy TRP

Henderson supplements the services of SAM and STAR with the personal service of dedicated volunteer drivers. Eight or nine volunteer drivers offer about 50 rides each month, she said.

“These drivers provide a lot of one-on-one TLC,” Henderson said, “and the riders really appreciate that.”

With the Sandy program — as with the county program also — medical trips are the highest priority.

One limitation is that trip drivers for the city will seldom be able to take people confined to wheelchairs.

Instead, SAM and STAR are alternatives that have lift service on the vehicle.

The Sandy van, which has lift service, mainly brings seniors daily to the community center for lunch and around town shopping once a week. But it does not take people to medical appointments. The van also is available occasionally to take people in wheelchairs to church.

With all of the types of rides available, Henderson is proud of the drivers who serve so reliably well.

“I have people who have given rides for up to 15 years,” Henderson said. “These people are amazingly dependable and reliable. But I can always use a couple more drivers.”

These rides are not available on a moment’s notice. Seniors who need the service must plan ahead and make appointments to match their needs.

“They need to call at least three days or up to a week in advance,” Henderson said, “especially if they are going up to OHSU, the VA or to West Linn.”

Henderson is happy to work in client services, she says, because she knows it is important for seniors to avoid being forced to live in an institution.

For more information or to volunteer for this city of Sandy program, call Henderson at 503-668-5569.