IN THE NEWS: Volunteer drivers needed to shuttle frail seniors

Lois K. Solomon

Sun-Sentinel

Apr 29, 2013

Some senior citizens who desperately need a ride may soon be stuck at home due to a lack of volunteer drivers.

Kibbitz & Ride, a program that provides free rides to frail, elderly people in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, has only 35 drivers for its 104 clients, said Beth Levine, volunteer coordinator for the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service. The program needs at least 60 drivers, she said, and has been asking existing volunteers to double their shifts.

Kibbitz & Ride reimburses drivers 49 cents per mile and is paid for by grants from the Retirement Research Foundation and the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation.

Many seniors can no longer drive and become shut-ins because of a dearth of good transportation options.

"The program has saved me," said Sandy Warsaw, 75, who has osteoarthritis in her hip and is recovering from surgery. "I don't know how I would manage without them."

Warsaw said a Kibbitz & Ride volunteer arrives every Friday and takes her and two friends grocery shopping, even carrying their packages back to their apartments in Kings Point west of Delray Beach. She said she takes Kings Point's community bus to doctor appointments that are on its route but needs the volunteer drivers for appointments off the route and to help carry her groceries.

A 2009 study confirmed the frustrations of senior citizens who say South Florida lacks convenient transport options. Although PalmTran's public buses and several private services are available at low cost, the study found seniors still saw the fees as prohibitive. Many stay home, the study reported, which diminishes their health.

Ellen Davidson, 77, said she has vision problems and has failed several driver's tests. She said she walks to the grocery store, about a mile away, and catches rides with friends, but occasionally needs a ride to the doctor. She learned about Kibbitz & Ride at a senior citizen's fair.

"I hate to bother my friends and relatives to shlep me to doctors' appointments," she said.

The volunteers seem to appreciate the interaction as much as the clients. Volunteer Gail Lipschultz, 76, said she looks forward to driving her peers twice a week on a shopping excursion or to the Weisman Delray Senior Center.

"I like to hear their life stories," Lipschultz said. "They love opera, music, ballet. They come out of the center and they are thrilled. It's a bright spot in their lives."

Volunteer Cindy Taylor, of Boynton Beach, agreed.

"It's one of the most gratifying things I have done in a long time," said Taylor, 68. "They are so happy to be able to sit in a car and have someone talk to them."

The family service also needs volunteers to deliver food to shut-ins once a week at Century Village west of Boca Raton. Only two drivers showed up last week, Levine said, although the program needs 16 volunteer deliverers. Potential volunteers can call Levine at 561-852-3334.

Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service (JFS) offers help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information, contact 561-852-3333 or visit www.ruthralesjfs.org.

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