Since the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix started administering the Jewish Federation Senior Rides Program three months ago, it has become clear how high the demand is for transportation for older adults and the Federation is hoping to raise significant dollars to expand the program.

About half of the 150-170 rides each month bring seniors to medical appointments, and the other half is split between synagogues and Jewish Community Center visits, along with grocery shopping, social and entertainment outings, said Barry Markson, Federation board member and chair of the Federation’s Community Planning Commission. “Some people think it should only be for doctor’s appointments or emergencies, but in my mind, when we really wanted to start this program, it was to provide that quality of life to seniors again,” Markson said.

He’s heard from several seniors “who are in tears telling me how this changed their life.” They’ve told him how going to the doctor’s office used to be a six- to seven-hour ordeal, between waiting for Dial-a-Ride – which does not go across city lines – and bus rides. “It really is a program that is having an immediate impact,” he said. “It’s effective, it’s working and all we need is more money for it to grow and to be able to serve more of the community.”

At the beginning of this year, Alan and Randi Jablin, along with the Friedel Family Foundation, established the Friedel Family Foundation Senior Transportation Fund to offer rides to seniors through Envoy America, a company that provides ride services for seniors, picking them up at their door, assisting them to the car, if needed, and then accompanying them throughout the trip and back home again. Smile on Seniors  administered the fund and 100 percent of the fund was used to provide rides.

In April, the Federation announced that it had allocated $58,000 to the program, for April 2016 to April 2017, at approximately $5,000 per month. In September, the Federation took over the administration of the program, which is named the Jewish Federation Senior Rides Program.

“What we found during our short time of operating is that the demand is very high,” Markson said. “There are lots of seniors in the community unable to drive (who) really love the program.”

The regular cost of a ride is $39 per hour. Through the Federation program, the senior typically pays 25 percent of the total cost – which averages $5-$10 per trip – and the Federation pays 75 percent, according to K.C. Kanaan, Envoy America CEO and co-founder. Tipping is not allowed and Envoy America handles the reservations and dispatch. If seniors want to use the service and pay for it out of pocket, Envoy America extends the Federation program’s discounted pricing to them, Kanaan said via email. Envoy America covers the entire Phoenix metropolitan area and is in the process of expanding to Tucson in early 2017.

The program is open to Jewish individuals age 65 or older who are permitted to take up to three rides per month per household. Round-trip rides can be three hours or less and one-way rides may not exceed 30 miles. Participants need to pay for any time or mileage that exceeds that limit, at the reduced rate.

Markson emphasizes that the program is designed for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford transportation. “We would like the beneficiaries of the program to be the ones who really have the need.”  

“Our limitation is the amount of funds that are available for it right now,” Markson said.“We’re working hard to raise more money so that we’re able to increase the size and the scope of the program and help more people.”

To make a donation, contact Marty Haberer, 480-634-4900, ext. 1105. To schedule a ride, call 602-687-6345 and mention the Federation program. The reservation needs to be made by 5 p.m. on the day prior to the ride.

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