After being put on pause in March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, the Yarmouth Rides is program is back up and running and looking for volunteer drivers.

Yarmouth Rides provides free rides to local seniors who can’t drive themselves to medical appointments and other errands. Entirely volunteer-run, it is operated by Yarmouth Cares About Neighbors, a nonprofit group that offers a variety of resources to residents, including clothing, heating assistance and food.

The program has been in place for about 10 years. Before the pandemic, it was providing up to 40 rides per week, said coordinator Jean Rafford. The program resumed once vaccines started being distributed last winter. It is just now ramping up operations again and is putting out the call for new volunteers.

Mo Distasio, who started as a volunteer driver this year, said one of the benefits is getting to meet people.

“I’m pretty social, so I had some great conversations with pretty much everyone I drove,” Distasio said. “Many people said they don’t know what they would do if it wasn’t for this program. Cabs and Ubers can be pretty expensive. It just makes you feel really good to do something nice for someone.”

Volunteer Mary Calvin agreed, saying it provided her with an opportunity to meet fellow residents when she and her husband moved to town eight years ago. Another positive aspect is the flexible schedule, she said.

“It’s something that you can do on your own time,” Calvin said. “You’re not committing to certain days or times. That flexibility is really great.”

Both Distasio and Calvin said their number of clients varies every week, but they average about two or three. There are regular riders and those who just need a one-time lift.

Ridership hasn’t resumed to its pre-pandemic levels, Rafford said. She attributes that in part to the suspension of the weekly senior meal in town that used to attract many seniors who needed a ride there. Also, she said, during the pandemic, seniors had to make other arrangements to get to their appointments and may be sticking with those.

Still, she said, the service is available.

“Seniors who need rides can call the number (207-329-7295) and leave a message with what their need is, the day and the time,” Rafford said. “I ask for at least three days notice of when the appointment is. Then I reach out to the drivers to see if anyone can do that ride. The three days notice also gives enough time to get back to them if I can’t find a driver for them to reschedule or find another means of transportation.”

Volunteers will bring clients anywhere between Freeport and Falmouth for errands and into Portland, Scarborough and surrounding communities for medical appointments. Rafford said she needs volunteers who feel comfortable driving into Portland.

“Some of our volunteers restrict themselves to only driving in Freeport, Falmouth and Yarmouth; they’re not so comfortable going into Portland,” Rafford said. “We have a lot of riders who have doctor’s appointments in Portland, so any driver that is willing to drive to Portland would be great.”

Vaccinations are required for both riders and drivers. While riders must be Yarmouth residents, volunteers can live anywhere. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Rafford at  207-329-7295.

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