West Columbia, Cayce, and Springdale join to begin free senior transportation service
West Columbia, SC (Keegan Gault) – Citizens, public servants, and a number of Lexington County and South Carolina’s most influential elected officials assembled at the West Columbia City Hall today to support a new senior transport system called Senior Rides, Lexington County. The purpose of the new initiative is to provide free transportation and mobility to senior citizens who otherwise might not be able to get to doctor’s appointments, the pharmacy, or even the grocery store for food.
Bill Dukes, the chairmen and one of the key organizers of the new program, began the event today by announcing the initiative. Dukes is well known for his work to organize the Honor Flight program which successfully flew hundreds of veterans to Washington to be honored. Tuesday, he enlisted the assistance of West Columbia’s Mayor Bobby Horton to introduce this new free system that could mean so much for people who might otherwise be home-bound because of a lack of transportation.
Chairmen Dukes and Mayor Horton were joined by other government officials in attendance who wholeheartedly support the efforts. South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster was there as were Lexington County Senator Nikki Setzler, South Carolina House Member Micah Caskey, Springdale’s Mayor Michael Bishop, and Elise Partin the mayor of Cayce. They were joined by several of West Columbia’s council members and members of the community’s clergy and police chiefs, the fire chief, and a number of other public servants.
The Senior Ride, Lexington County program began after Dukes and several other key SC leaders discovered the Neighbor-To-Neighbor program that is working so well in Myrtle Beach. In that program, neighbors provide rides for neighbors and are dispatched through a center that was founded by churches. That system started small, but has since grown into a successful effort that has provided thousands of free rides by neighbors for neighbors. The new ride system currently being implemented in West Columbia borrows the same ideas already working in Myrtle Beach.
Dukes, and the other volunteers, worked hard to apply for and have now qualified as a Federal 501-C organization. This means that donations to the program are tax deductible. Already, the Senior Ride, Lexington County program has been given $56,000 from another program that is now defunct. They have also been donated office space by well known West Columbia businessman Ted McGee and have a working telephone service provided free by a national carrier.
The system works with the help of numerous volunteers who can drive and have a dependable car. These volunteers transport seniors to and from their destination safely. Drivers will be screened, and all will have to pass a background check. Their cars will also be checked to make sure they are mechanically sound. This will be done to ensure the safety of the seniors.
Governor McMaster sees a tremendous future for this program, and he believes that many other cities and communities will see this program and want to start one of their own. If McMaster is right, eventually, this will be a statewide program; Senior Ride, SC. He feels it is such an important issue because, “If you don’t have transportation, you feel like you are isolated,” McMaster said. Governor McMaster also thinks this will succeed because of intergovernmental cooperation; cities and towns working together for the good of all their citizens. McMaster said that by doing this, the city of West Columbia, and the surrounding areas, cities, and towns have shown they’re doing the “right thing for the right reason.”
Springdale’s Mayor Michael Bishop put the need into perspective by pointing out the situation of an aging population in that area. Bishop said that according to the last census, the town of Springdale had about 30% of their population that were 60 or above. As those people continue to age, their ability to drive will decrease and the need for alternative transportation will increase.
The focus of Senior Ride, Lexington County will initially start off with urgent trips such as medical visits. Eventually, it may expand to trips to the barber, the hairdresser, and maybe even to visit family. Seniors, like everyone else, considers transportation freedom.
Through December and January, Senior Ride, Lexington County will focus on recruiting and checking out potential drivers and their cars, Dukes said. By February, they hope they will be ready to offer the free rides. They need your help to make this successful. To volunteer as a driver, or to find out more about the program, call Senior Ride, SC at (803) 582-8826.
You can view the governor’s remarks here: