“These Americans are the most peculiar people in the world. You’ll not believe it when I tell you how they behave. In a local community in their country, a citizen may conceive of some need which is not being met. What does he do? He goes across the street and discusses it with his neighbor. Then what happens? A committee begins functioning on behalf of that need and you won’t believe this but it’s true. All of this is done by private citizens on their own initiative. The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”
–Alex de Tocqueville, 1835
Boston some years ago. Today there are about 190 Villages across the country, in Australia and The Netherlands. Another 185 are in development. The mission of VtV is to enable communities to establish and effectively manage aging in community organizations initiated and inspired by their members.
Such is the mission of Herndon Village Network which began operating in April of 2015. Herndon Village Network Rides program is designed to meet the needs of non-driving, homebound adults over 55 and adults with disabilities living in zip code 20170. Since its start, HVN Rides has logged over 2300 miles.
The impetus for HVN came from retiring Herndon High School teacher Gary Gepford who felt the value in neighbors helping neighbors. As the HVN interest grew, the group’s mission focused on delivering rides for the town’s seniors.
Today the Herndon Village Network works with NV Rides, a regional organization dedicated to providing rides to seniors throughout Northern Virginia. NV Rides takes the reservations and using the NV Rides scheduler website arranges rides for the appropriate organization, whether HVN or another volunteer network. Those in 20170 are typically handled by HVN.
Senior clients in 20170 can apply for membership in HVN by completing a simple application. Annual membership is $20 per person or $30 per household. HVN asks its members to make ride requests 5-7 days in advance although more immediate arrangements can be made if necessary. The requests can be for trips to doctor’s visits, grocery and prescription pickup, or just about any other local ride need that may be required.
Penny Halperin, HVN board president, remarks, “the people you drive become your friends. Most rides are for medical visits but we also see hair appointments, grocery, and nail manicures. We once had a client who attended her granddaughter’s high school dance recital and told the driver, ‘I’ll buy you a ticket if you’d like to go.’ These folks go out of their way to try to give back although accepting gifts or compensation is prohibited. We are asking potential drivers to step outside themselves and do the right thing.”
As the HVN literature points out: “Think of what it would be like if you could no longer drive. And then add to that other complications of aging and mobility. Transportation means independence and freedom. [We want] those who need special assistance to remain in the familiar environment of their homes and be an integral part of the community, improving the quality of their lives.”