Lake County Council on Aging (LCCOA) broke ground Tuesday, April 18, on a new transportation hub for one of their key programs, Lake County Community Transit.
The nonprofit LCCOA has helped thousands of elders and their families since its inception in 1979, operating out of a single, small office rented from the Mission Valley Senior Center. The new facility to be built across Highway 93 from the Ronan Town Pump will provide five offices, a conference room, and a bus barn with room for all the transportation program vehicles, plus room to expand.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had our own space, and enough space for all the different programs we do,” LCCOA Director Dara Rodda said. “We’re excited to be able to host things, be more visible and involved with the community, and keep our vehicles safe and well looked after.”
The project has been in the works for more than a year, beginning with an application for a facility grant through the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), which distributes funds from the Federal Transit Administration.
Typically a nonprofit organization would be required to provide matching funds, or a “co-pay,” Rodda said. But because this grant occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, LCCOA was able to use CARES Act funding, so it is 100% funded.
“This is really great news, so any fundraisers we do will be to help fund services rather than this new facility,” Rodda said.
It was a new experience for LCCOA to work with a grant of this size, Rodda said. She credited the LLCOA board, as well as staff at Montana Department of Transportation who supported and advised her through this new process. She is working with a local contractor, Ridgeway Construction, which successfully won the bid and will have a chance to do their first large commercial contract.
“It feels really good to be able to use local people and support the economy that way,” Rodda said. “We both got this great opportunity.”
Lake County Community Transit primarily serves elders and disabled people who need rides to medical appointments within Lake County and to Missoula and Kalispell, though others sometimes use the service to get to work or for other reasons. The program is open to the general public and has provided around 15,000 rides over 160,000 miles in the last three years. The program is one of the few in Montana still run by volunteer drivers, Rodda said.
“It’s a door-to-door service, so we pick the rider up at their house and take them right to their medical appointment. Having a volunteer run transportation program really shows just what a truly amazing community we live in.”
“We are looking for more volunteers currently, so if you have a few extra hours a week, and want to do some good in your community and make new friends, volunteering with this program might be for you,” Rodda said.
Operation hours for transportation are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Rides must be reserved at least 24 to 48 hours in advance so that volunteers can be scheduled.
The Council on Aging provides a variety of services in addition to transportation, including caregiver respite assistance, homemaking assistance, nutrition programs, and an information and assistance program. They are readily available to answer questions related to elderly care and resources.
For more information, contact Lake County Council on Aging at 406-676-2367 or visit lakecountycoa.org.