The new Neighbors Driving Neighbors program, which offers rides to people in five rural communities, has been rolling for almost two weeks now.

“We’ve transported three people and got plans for several more next week,” said Dr. Dan Onion, president and volunteer driver of the group. “Our major goal is to help people stay in town if they can’t drive any more.”

Driver training and requests for rides are arranged through part-time coordinator Irene Goff of Vienna.

Almost 20 volunteer drivers have signed up, according to Sandra Wright, former president of the group who is now the group’s secretary.

The program was conceived three years ago when organizers heard about the need for transportation when they listened to a number of people gathered for the weekly Maranacook Senior Cafe, where people age 55 and older met once a week for coffee, muffins and conversation at the high school.

“Everyone said the most important concern was transportation. They don’t want to leave their houses,” Wright said.

The program provided its first ride on Nov. 14 with Bill Latham as driver.

Onion said Wednesday that he has yet to be called on to drive.

“I was on tap to drive someone, and I got aced out by another guy,” he said.

He said he anticipates gradually increasing demand for rides and for drivers over the next few months.

Onion also said a group of five women, who had come to an organizing meeting at the United Methodist Church in North Vienna, were trying to arrange to travel all together for a shopping trip.

He said the training for drivers discusses issues of confidentiality and what the drivers can do.

“We can do wheelchairs if they can manage them themselves,” he said. “Most of the drivers are older.”

Onion himself is 73.

According to a news release from the group, arrangements for rides can be made “for adults who live in Belgrade, Fayette, Mount Vernon, Rome or Vienna and need a ride to appointments, errands or shopping in our local service centers.”

The organization will also give lifts to local libraries and food banks. All ride requests must be made usually five days in advance by contacting Neighbors Driving Neighbors at 860-0677 or by e-mail to [email protected]

“We will try to accommodate requests made with less notice, but this may not be possible,” the group said.

The ride service is free and tax-deductible donations are accepted at Neighbors Driving Neighbors, P.O. Box 142, Mount Vernon, ME 04352.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams