Yes, There is Such a Thing as a Free Ride

Yes, There is Such a Thing as a Free Ride
By Mary P. Felter

Marion Pinkney, 81, takes a free ride five days a week from her Glen Burnie home to volunteer in the Foster Grandparent Program. She also calls for the van service whenever she needs to pick up a prescription, see her doctor or go grocery shopping.

“I love volunteering,” says Mrs. Pinkney of the Lloyd Keaser Center in the Pumphrey area, Mrs. Pinkney says. She’s been a mentor to children in the Head Start program there for six years now. And while her home is not too far from the site, she appreciates the transportation program offered by the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities.

Another senior citizen, Louise Downs, has been riding the free van service from her Lothian home since November 1984 when she attended a senior center class first offered at the seniors’ satellite center in Wayson’s Corner. Initially she took the van three days a week to the South County Senior Center, now located in Edgewater. The retiree from Grand Union enjoyed taking various continuing education courses, and was thankful for the free van service that got her there. She also found herself volunteering at the center.

“Then I ‘retired’ — have you ever heard of someone retiring from a senior center?” she says with a laugh. So today the 91-year-old goes to the center “just to socialize and help out where I can.”

Both she and Mrs. Pinkney have stayed active mentally and physically with the help of the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities. The department, which recently adopted the slogan of “Making Life Better,” has made it possible for them to be involved in their community and to be independent.

How? Just by providing the van service. It’s available to anyone age 55 and up and adults age 18 and up with disabilities. And it’s free. There are no income requirements. Donations are accepted at collection boxes at senior centers and nutrition sites throughout the county, or a contribution can be made to the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities, 2666 Riva Road, Fourth Floor, Annapolis, MD 21401.

Rodney Tasker, director of the department’s transportation program, said there are more than 700 trips a day made throughout the county, from Chesapeake Beach to Brooklyn Park to West County. The county has 39 vans, with 34 in fulltime operation, and 32 of them are wheelchair accessible. The vans, which can hold as many as 10 people, even make trips to eight or nine hospitals in Baltimore City.

Tasker said you don’t have to be a patient at the hospital. You might just need to visit a family member who is facing surgery or recovering, and the van will take you there.

If you want to use van service, you need to call two days in advance so that routes can be planned most efficiently and expeditiously, he said. The vans offer curb-to-curb service, picking patrons up at their homes and returning them to their homes. People who live in rural areas are especially appreciative of the service, he said.

You don’t have to find a neighbor or family member to take you to the doctor or the store. You can call for a van. They operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The only caveat? You must call 48 hours before you need the ride. The number is (410) 222-4826. Visit www.aacounty.org/aging for more information on the department.

Mary P. Felter is the public information officer for the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities.

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