Ride program for seniors in Charlestown, backed by a grant, could be a model for other rural communities

Ride program for seniors in Charlestown, backed by a grant, could be a model for other rural communities

The Westerly Sun

CHARLESTOWN — Seniors in Charlestown who need a ride to the doctor’s office, grocery store or other crucial services will soon get some help, thanks to a transportation grant from the Rhode Island Foundation. 

The nonprofit organization Southern Rhode Island Volunteers will provide the rides, after receiving $5,606 from the foundation. 

“I just think it’s terrific, wonderful news,” Town Council President Virginia Lee said. “Charlestown doesn’t have any regular bus service so it’s much needed. The seniors are really going to benefit from this.”  

The initiative is one of eight local projects to win funding from the Rhode Island Foundation’s Community Grants program. Most of the work is expected to be underway before the end of the year.

It’s welcome news to senior citizens in Charlestown, Southern Rhode Island Volunteers Executive Director Debra Tanner said. 

“Charlestown has no public transportation at all. Senior citizens who no longer drive are completely isolated without the help of others in this rural town,” Tanner said. “We chose Charlestown because it’s central in the county.”

Southern Rhode Island Volunteers provides volunteer services throughout the area, including at the Charlestown farmers market and the Washington County Fair.

The group hopes to make the Charlestown ride program a model that other communities can use, Tanner said. 

“This can be a part of the transportation solution everywhere in rural Rhode Island,” she said. 

Late last month, the group put out a call for residents to serve as volunteer drivers.

“Help your neighborhood seniors by bringing them to the Mini Super, Cumberland Farms, Rippy’s, Peaches and CVS,” the announcement said. Also needed are volunteer drivers to take seniors to the Charlestown Senior Center for congregate meals and day activities between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays.

The Charlestown senior citizens ride program is one of eight South County projects sharing more than $51,000 in grants. 

Awards range from a $2,875 grant to the South County Art Association in Kingston for its Art from the Heart of the Community project, an indoor mural created by residents, to $10,000 for an intergenerational learning center at the World War II Foundation in South Kingstown. 

The Rhode Island Foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations in 2017.

The funding from the Community Grants Program is supplemented by a gift from longtime foundation donor Anne Sage.

“We’re excited about these ideas for making community happen in more and better ways at the local level,” Jessica David, the foundation’s executive vice president of strategy and community investments, said. “Supporting community-building will improve shared places and quality of life, promote collaboration and increase community engagement. We’re grateful to have donors who invest in our work and partners like these that understand the needs of their community.”



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