For 15 years, Southlake seniors have counted on Call a Ride of Southlake to get to doctor appointments, the grocery store or to other activities.
The December opening of The Marq in Southlake, which features a spiffy new Senior Activities Center, will no doubt increase demand for the all-volunteer service, Erik Phelps, executive director of CARS, said.
"It’s a beautiful facility, a centerpiece for the city in terms of activities old and young," Phelps said, referring to the future phase, which will have a gymnasium and aquatics center. "We expect to see an uptick in our requests for rides over to that facility."
That means they need more volunteer drivers. And they don’t have to live in Southlake. Anyone who’s interested in volunteering can fill out an application at CallaRideSouthlake.org. The organization logged an average of 1,800 trips and about 13,000 miles in both 2013 and 2014.
CARs has about 25 drivers, according to an October report to the city.
"We have a very generous group of volunteers who do all the driving with their personal vehicles," Phelps said. "We need to share the load, so to speak. The more drivers we have in our cadre, the more people we can support and the more people we can transport."
All the miles are tracked and the city documents it for the year so volunteers can claim it on their taxes. More than that, the drivers form long-lasting relationships with the people they transport.
"It strengthens not only the bonds between those individuals but also within generations," Phelps said. "We give them back a sense of autonomy because they know if they schedule the ride with us that they will get to where they want to go."
Lisa Adam started volunteering in 2007 and sets her own schedule each week. Her SUV has enough room to store a collapsible wheelchair or walker and she gets to know each passenger personally.
"A lot of them just want to go to the new senior center or go have lunch with their friend," she said. "My parents have already passed so I can drive other parents. I enjoy the company of these folks here."
The service is for seniors or other disabled adults who are Southlake residents because the service is funded by the city annually. To schedule a ride, qualified riders must call CARS 72 hours ahead of time. The service is not for emergencies.
CARS will transport within a 25-mile radius of Southlake for medical purposes. All other rides are limited to a 7-mile radius.
"It’s a hidden gem but there’s a lot of people who wish they had it in neighboring communities," Adam said.