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New senior transportation program launches

FTAAD Administrative Director Kathy Whitaker and FTAAAD Volunteer Transportation Coordinator Lee Gay

October 31, 2018

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

Excitement filled the air as guests gathered at the Johnson County Senior Center on Friday, October 26 to celebrate the launch of Johnson County’s My Ride program. Guests include local officials Mayor Mike Taylor, Commissioner Megan McEwen, FTDD Director Chris Craig, and Representative Timothy Hill. WMCT’s Tom Reece broadcasted interviews with officials and guests throughout the event.

Johnson County My Ride is the first program of its kind in East Tennessee. This program is possible due to a partnership with the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability (FTAAAD). Thirty more programs are being established at the state level. Though it is heavily intertwined with the Johnson County Senior Center, Johnson County My Ride is not a function of the senior center. Johnson County My Ride officials are as follows: Danae Marshall, Transportation Coordinator; Belinda Reece, Assistant; Tom Reece, radio announcer.

“What is unique about this program is that it’s provided by volunteers using their own vehicles and providing door-through-door transportation,” said FTAAAD Volunteer Transportation Coordinator Lee Gay.

These drivers are here on a volunteer basis and receive no pay except reimbursement for gas. But many of these volunteers are senior center members and are well known by regulars. Volunteer Dr. John Payne believes that these volunteers will not accept compensation.

“Drivers receive a nominal reimbursement for gasoline if it’s turned in,“ said Dr. Payne. “But I suspect that they won’t submit the information.”

Kathy Motsinger recognized volunteers and memorialized volunteer Willie Hammons who passed away. Motsinger invited them to the front. Twelve volunteers were present. Guest speakers Kathy Whitaker, Lee Gay, and Danae Marshall took to the podium to talk more about My Ride. Transportation is a big concern for senior citizens. Speakers mentioned the physical and mental health benefits that mobility provides. Volunteer driver Walter Heerschap understands the importance.

“I can fortunately drive and get places, but when I moved down to this county, I knew some people could not,” said Heerschap. “I want to be of use to them. It keeps me going.”

Johnson County My Ride received a 3-year grant. The program must be self-sustaining by the end of the 3-year period. Launch Day sponsors include Farmers State Bank, Johnson County Bank, Elizabethton Federal, and Iron Mountain Construction. Membership applications are available for volunteers and riders at the Johnson County Senior Center. Find out more information about Johnson County My Ride at 423-727-8883.