SIDNEY — Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) is working to find more volunteer drivers for RideConnect, a program designed to expand transportation options throughout the Miami Valley region. Additional funding has been secured from the Ohio Department of Transportation to increase the scope of the program that was launched by CSSMV in July 2021.
RideConnect is focused on transporting individuals to employment and medical and non-medical appointments. The goal is to supplement existing transportation services by assisting people who may “fall through the cracks,” according to Michelle Caserta-Bixler, CSSMV Mobility manager.
Caserta-Bixler and her team work to increase transportation options by engaging with local transportation providers and discussing changes that can make transportation more available and affordable for all. RideConnect can offer rides when local transit schedules are full and during off-hours when transit is not available. Bridging gaps that exist because of the lack of cross-county and region-to-region transportation options is an area where a volunteer driver may be available to help.
RideConnect currently has 13 volunteers, spread throughout the region. The goal is to increase that number to 20 drivers by the end of the year. So far in 2022, volunteer drivers have provided over 300 rides to individuals in various communities and driven over 13,000 miles.
“It’s a ‘God Moment’ to be able to help someone with a ride that we all take for granted,” said Phillip Lahrmer, a RideConnect volunteer driver. “I’ve met some great folks driving for Catholic Social Services’ RideConnect program and this program fills a real, serious need.”
Volunteer drivers provide curb-to-curb transportation for passengers who need rides to medical and non-medical destinations. Drivers use their personal vehicles to transport within their county and to adjoining counties. Mileage reimbursement is provided for approved rides. Appointments for rides are made through CSSMV’s office in Sidney.
“This is a flexible opportunity that allows volunteers to accept rides that meet their personal availability,” said Heather Robison, CSSMV transportation liaison. “It’s a great chance for individuals to give a few hours each month to help someone in need.”
Drivers are thoroughly trained a vetted (background check, drug/alcohol screening and non-DOT physical required). They must hold a valid Ohio driver’s license with no more than three points accrued. CSSMV pays for all training which includes Defensive Driving training and SafeParish (Child Protection) training.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer driver can contact CSSMV at 937-575-7111 or email [email protected]