Two years after its launch in Reston, RCC Rides is helping hundreds of older adults get where they need to go.
The free, door-to-door transportation service has caught on with both volunteer drivers and Reston-area residents 55 and older. RCC Rides currently has 38 registered drivers and 250 riders.
With the older adult population in Northern Virginia growing at twice the rate of rest of the population, RCC developed the service in the summer of 2015 in association with NV Rides to support the evolving needs of this growing population cohort. Karen Brutsché, RCC’s Lifelong Learning program director, saw how NV Rides had success with other Fairfax County nonprofits and the Jewish Council on Aging, and knew it would be a great fit for Reston’s independence-craving older adults.
To enter the program, riders must live in Small Tax District 5. Before requesting their first ride, they fill out an application. When they need a ride, they email or call in their request at least a week in advance. Drivers check needed rides online and select those rides that fit their schedule.
There is no limit on the distance a driver can go, but some destinations can be harder than others to match and drivers cannot transport wheelchairs.
NV Rides conducts background checks for drivers, who receive a handbook and go to a short training meeting. Once approved and in the system, drivers log on to the scheduling website to choose rides. Many drivers say RCC Rides is an ideal volunteer opportunity because it allows flexibility.
Brutsché calls the service “the gift of a lift.” The program was honored in 2015 as the Virginia Parks and Recreation Society’s “Best New Program” for communities of more than 50,000 residents.
“Unlike many ride programs, this one is not based on income,” she said. “We will take you to the places you need and want to be. Being connected to a ride service like this really increases the quality of life for older adults. It has exceeded my expectations in how helpful it has been for people.”
The most popular ride destinations are medical appointments and grocery shopping, Brutsché said, but riders tell her they have called for a ride to attend a class, get to religious services, keep a hairdresser appointment or just meet up with friends.
RCC Rides user Joan A. calls her drivers “my angels.”
“My husband and I were in an automobile accident last summer,” she said. “Our car was totaled, so we aren’t driving any longer. We really depend on our volunteer drivers for my exercise classes, which are medically necessary, and trips to the grocery store. They all are just angels; they’re my angels. We are recent transplants, so our friendship with Eve and Elaine, two of our angels, has meant the world to me.”
Driver Ann M. said she sees every ride as an opportunity to connect and improve someone’s life.
“Once you start giving rides, you get to realize what a big difference your simple action makes,” she said.
For more information about RCC Rides, contact Karen Brutsché, Karen.Brutsche@fairfaxcounty.gov or 703-390-6198.