Christine Currier, director of St. Lawrence County’s Volunteer Transportation Center, says the program is in dire need of more drivers. Before the pandemic, the program had about 100 volunteers in St. Lawrence County. That number fell by half during the pandemic and still has not bounced back.
For those in St. Lawrence County who don’t have cars, it can be almost impossible to make essential trips. Volunteer Transportation gives people rides to places like doctor’s offices and grocery stores. Many ride requests come directly from individuals who call the program’s phone number for assistance. Other requests come from the Department of Social Services. (Volunteer Transportation Center contracts with DSS to drive children to appointments, like visitation meetings with parents.)
On an average day before the pandemic, the organization’s drivers also completed about 100 rides that had been requested by the Department of Health on behalf of Medicaid recipients. Now, with about half as many drivers, the number of Medicaid rides the organization can take on has also been halved. They simply cannot meet local demand, Currier said.
“Sometimes there’s some scrambling last minute to try and get things filled correctly, just because we just don’t have enough drivers,” Currier said. “If we had more drivers we’d be able to help a lot more people in the community.”
“We are currently actively recruiting everywhere and anywhere that we can. Because we do know that the need in St. Lawrence County is so high, especially with, you know, how spread out everything is in St. Lawrence County,” Currier said.
Individuals must be 21 or older to volunteer, with a car less than 15 years old and a relatively clean driving record. Drivers are reimbursed for their mileage at the standard IRS rate.