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Monday, March 28, 2011

Neighbor Ride—Using the new community-networking model of service delivery

Anyone who has been following trends in human service delivery has seen the rise of community networks as a service delivery model. The model has developed as the Internet has provided easy methods to reach volunteers in the community to match needs with volunteer resources. There is no better example of this in Howard County than Neighbor Ride service to transport senior citizens.

The Howard County Office on Aging conducted extensive research in 2001, which projected that, the county’s senior population would double by the year 2020. Seniors surveyed in the study identified health care and a lack of transportation options as their top two concerns. The Office on Aging presented their findings to Transportation Advocates, a grassroots coalition of businesses, human services, transportation providers, local government, senior and environmental groups, consumers and interested citizens working to increase public awareness of transportation services and needs and advocating for regional and local transportation. Transportation Advocates hosted a local conference to study Supplemental Transportation Programs (STPs) in October 2002. A work group consisting of more than 25 human service and transportation providers, government representatives, interested community members and senior citizens was formed and interviewed service providers, held informal focus groups, and met with existing senior groups to understand the impact of transportation on the quality of life for seniors. Out of this effort the concept for Neighbor Ride created and incorporated in the summer of 2004. Its volunteer-provided senior transportation service was launched on November 17, 2004.

Today over 6 years later Neighbor Ride serves over 350 seniors and provides over 1100 rides a month with over 300 volunteers. About half the rides are to doctor’s appointments and the other half are for shopping and social visits. Over 99% of the ride requests are filled. This is amazing considering that the rides are provided seven days a week and some involve transportation to the Baltimore and DC areas. The demand keeps growing significantly each year that Neighbor Ride exists.

Funding for Neighbor Ride comes from many sources. About 17% of their funds come from fares. Fares are charged to seniors based on ride length related to zip codes traveled. Other sources of funding are State, County, foundations, contributions and fund raising. The use of volunteer networks in providing this service is one of the best deals for funders. If the more traditional model of service provision was used in meeting this need you would have to pay for vehicles, gas, insurance and drivers. The cost of this type of service would probably be prohibitive for most seniors.

If you are interested in volunteering for Neighbor Ride you can call them at 410-884-RIDE (7433) or email them at

Neighbor Ride is holding a fundraiser at Mamma Lucia’s, Wednesday March 30th from 4-10 pm. For more information on this fundraiser go to

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