Volunteers for Jonesborough’s MyRide program gather at the 500th ride celebration to receive words of praise from local MyRide Coordinator Susan Katko.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

[email protected]

25 volunteers. 46 customers. 7,852 miles. 537 travels.

Jonesborough celebrated more than 500 rides as part of its new MyRide TN transportation service Monday, and local officials are convinced this celebration is just the beginning.

‘It just keeps climbing,” said Lee Gay, volunteer transportation coordinator for the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability, who has been with the program from the beginning. “It’s a testimony to the value of the people in this community.”

Implemented in Jonesborough in December of last year as a transportation resource for local seniors age 60 and up, the new program has already surpassed expectations, according to Jonesborough Senior Center Director Mary Regen.

“The requirement for the grant was 500 rides in three years,” said Regen, referring to the $3.6 million statewide grant from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability that helped fund the service. “We’ve given 500 rides in less than a year. So we are very proud of that.”

Katko poses with top volunteer Foye Webb, who is responsible for 100 of those 500-plus rides and is a favorite of local seniors who use the service. The MyRide program is available for ambulatory seniors age 60 and up in Jonesborough and its surrounding communities, providing independence and travel options for for individuals who don’t drive.

According to Susan Katko, coordinator for MyRide TN in Jonesborough, the service has been a blessing for both volunteer drivers, many of whom are seniors themselves, and their passengers.

“First of all, families are so burdened these days,” she said, explaining why the program is so important in Jonesborough. “They work full time. They have their own children.”

It makes it difficult to be there for their older parents, Katko said.

And in turn, these older parents worry about being a burden for their children.

“There are also an awful lot of seniors who have no one,” Katko continued. “It’s surprising.”

In either case, MyRide provides a local solution by matching seniors in need of willing volunteers, whether for trips to the doctor’s office or the grocery store.

Nancy Losey, left, and Nancy Durham are friends and local seniors who rely on the MyRide program. For Losey, it has meant having the freedom to explore local sites. For Durham, it means not having to worry about transportation when she has medical appointments out of town.

“We’re helping them stay healthy and also not be isolated,” Katko said. “We have a lady, for example,  that we are taking to the Monday Club meetings at the Johnson City Public Library.”

As for the volunteers, Katko can’t praise them enough.

“They are dear to my heart,” she said, “because they show the capacity to help. They just want to serve. They have very big hearts.”

They also, reap the benefits of helping, she said.

“Ninety percent of my drivers are retired,” Katko said. “Some of them are lonely themselves. Some of them are cancer survivors and want to give back. A lot of them come from the churches and the senior center.

“They just want to make a positive difference.”