Sandra Wright met two women at a recent community meeting who still were driving but couldn’t wait to hand their car keys over to their children and stop driving.

The challenge those women and hundreds of Maine residents like them face is they are part of an aging population that lives in rural small towns without public transportation.

They want to continue living in their own homes, but they need alternate transportation to ensure they can get to the grocery store, the library, medical appointments or to see friends — just about anywhere they can go now under their own power.

In just a matter of months, those two women — plus residents of Mount Vernon, Fayette, Vienna, Rome and Belgrade — will be able to call on Neighbors Driving Neighbors, a volunteer driving program that has only a few final tasks left to accomplish before launching: securing insurance, finding a partner that can vet the volunteer drivers, holding orientation sessions for those volunteers, and getting the word out on the program to both volunteers and those needing rides.

On Tuesday, Wright, president of the Mount Vernon Community Partnership Corp., delivered highlights of the group’s programs to about 50 people from across Maine in a session focused on designing local volunteer transportation initiatives at the 2015 Maine Summit on Aging, a daylong event held at the Augusta Civic Center. Wright was joined by Irene Goff, coordinator for Neighbors Driving Neighbors, Jo Cooper, executive director of Hancock County’s Friends in Action, and Theresa Turgeon of Bowdoinham’s Rides Inc.

Neighbors Driving Neighbors is the result of a series of meetings held by the Mount Vernon Community Partnership Corp., a nonprofit organization that promotes economic and community development for the Mount Vernon area. The meetings have showed that transportation is a critical need in the Mount Vernon area, according to Goff. The Community Partnership Corp. secured both a planning grant and a grant to fund the program, and it serves as the program’s fiscal sponsor.

“One advantage we have is technology,” Goff said, adding that Neighbors Driving Neighbors uses Google Calendar, a free online program, to track volunteers and those needing rides.

Neighbors Driving Neighbors follows in the tracks laid by Friends in Action, and Cooper consulted on how the program should be structured. Friends in Action has been offering rides for about 13 years and now has more than 175 volunteer drivers.

Setting up a volunteer ride program is about more than finding money and willing drivers. It also requires training, good communication and trust.

Volunteer transportation programs have practical limits on who they can help, Cooper said. Those seeking rides have to be able to get in and out of cars with limited assistance, and drivers have to be trusted to take them safely to and from their destination.

“You are only as good as your last ride,” Cooper said

For more information on Neighbors Driving Neighbors, contact Goff at 860-0677, or by email at [email protected]

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.