BY KATIE MATTESON
For senior citizens who no longer drive, getting rides to the grocery store, medical appointments, the beauty parlor, the bank and local department stores can make a big difference in their ability to continue to live in their own homes.
In Racine County, 27 percent of the population is 55+ in age and those over the age of 65, 80 percent still own their own homes, according to statistics provided by the Volunteer Center of Racine County.
To meet the needs of the community’s aging population, the Volunteer Center has established a program called My RIDE that currently provides rides to about 138 local senior citizens on a regular basis. The only problem is, they only have 17 drivers and are desperately in need of more.
Jenni Chap, the Volunteer Center’s senior transportation coordinator, explained that volunteer drivers use their own vehicles and if they’re over 55, qualify for mileage reimbursement and supplemental accident liability insurance from the RSVP program that’s also housed in the Volunteer Center.
Chap said that volunteers are sent an email each week asking for their available hours for the following week and requests for rides are scheduled based on each volunteer’s availability.
“You can be your own boss and change your hours week to week,” Chap said.
Those requesting rides generally schedule out about two weeks in advance, although schedulers will try to accommodate requests with shorter notice, if possible.
“When we go and speak to groups about the program, we generally get lots of interest from people who need rides but not as much from those willing to give rides,” Chap said. “Hopefully this article will get some new people interested in helping.”
Those interested in volunteering can contact Chap directly at (262) 417-7544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
But if driving isn’t your thing, don’t stop reading. There are plenty of other opportunities at the Volunteer Center. One click on the Volunteer Today! tab at volunteerracine.org will give you a quick snapshot of all the local organizations that utilize the Volunteer Center to attract volunteers to do a wide range of activities. There’s truly something for everyone.
Michelle Ortwein became executive director of the organization in May after the retirement of longtime chief Al Volmut. Ortwein had previously served as the organization’s youth coordinator.
Bruce Davis is the RSVP project director. His role is writing and supervising implementation of the three-year federal grant that provides the funding for several programs that are part of the Healthy Futures primary focus areas: (Aging in Place) Senior Companion Program, Inc., Meals on Wheels, My RIDE Senior Transportation, (Food Distribution) St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry, (Disaster Preparedness) Racine County Sheriff’s Patrol Substation, Racine Medical Reserve Corps, Lakeshore Repeater Association, Amateur Radio Emergency Service, (Other Community Projects) Ascension All-Saints, AARP Tax-Aide, Caledonia Historical Society and SafeAssuredTM ID. New volunteers are always welcome to these programs.
Terri Benner is the program coordinator for Skill Bank, a program for seniors 55 years and older living in Racine County who need help with home projects such as painting, plumbing, grass cutting and general handyman tasks. Benner helps connect those needing help with contractors who are willing to work for reduced costs. As with the My RIDE program, Skill Bank helps seniors remain in their homes. Contractors who can help are asked to contact the Volunteer Center.
And it’s not just adults that can enhance their lives by volunteering. The Volunteer Center also coordinates youth programs in partnership with the best practices of the Youth Volunteer Corps., a network of affiliated organizations across the U.S. and Canada that engage youth ages 11-18 in team-based, structured, diverse, flexible service-learning opportunities.
The men, women and youth who volunteered through the Volunteer Center during the past year will be honored during the 17th Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, set for Friday, April 26 from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Roma Lodge.
For more information, contact Volunteer Center of Racine County by phone at (262) 886-9612, by email at email@example.com or visit the website, volunteerracine.org.