Archive for Thursday, January 13, 2005

Ride program faces record need

January 13, 2005

Walter Clemans has hitchhiked across the country and he said he's never had an easier time thumbing a lift.

That's because with Johnson County's Catch-A-Ride, you no longer have to put out your thumb in order to hitch a ride.

This volunteer-based organization is committed to the assistance of individuals and families with a range of human service requirements. Catch-A-Ride provides transportation services to Johnson County residents who are older adults, do not or cannot drive, are in a life transition or with disabilities. In short, people like Clemans.

Clemans, a resident of Clearview City, waited patiently Friday morning at his dining room table for his volunteer driver, Archie Bedford, to arrive. Clemans, who uses the service primarily for doctor appointments, has been "catching-a-ride" since he moved back to Johnson County two years ago. Clemans has never learned how to drive, so without Catch-A-Ride, he said the only other way for him to get to where he needed to go was to walk.

Clemans was being driven to the Veterans Hospital Medical Center on Friday for what he called a "regular check-up." On Christmas Eve he found himself in the hospital for four days because of heart failure. Friday's appointment was a routine check-up to make sure he still had a clean bill of health.

"If it weren't for these volunteers, I'd have to keep canceling and rescheduling my appointments, and that affects my health," Clemans said. "Anyone can help like Archie does."

Bedford has been Clemans' driver before and said he always tried to free up his schedule for a fellow veteran.

Bedford said that while the Veterans hospital offered transportation, individuals must qualify on several different levels and even then they can only travel a certain distance.

"If you can drive, you can help," Bedford said. "This isn't just for vets, but I like to encourage fellow veterans to help each other out."

Catch-A-Ride coordinator Barbara Gerhard said the Johnson County program typically scheduled about three rides a week in DeSoto. There are currently 11 volunteers from DeSoto signed up to drive.

Last October, the five-year-old program was doubled thanks to volunteer drivers, Gerhard said.gram typically scheduled about three rides a week in De Soto. There are currently 11 volunteers from De Soto signed up to drive.

Last October, the five-year-old program was doubled, thanks to volunteer drivers, Gerhard said.

"It does show that we have a need for help and that people are willing to respond," Gerhard said.

More than 1,000 rides were given in Johnson County in the record-breaking request month of October.

"It's nice to see that people are taking advantage of our program as both a public service and community service to others," Gerhard said.

Gerhard asked those wishing to volunteer or needing the program to call her offices in Olathe at (913) 477-8105 or (888) 214-4404. Individuals scheduling rides are asked to give at least three days notice.

Drivers must be at least 25 years old with a valid driver's license, a credible driving record, have and auto liability insurance. They must consent to a diver's license and criminal history records background check.

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