Transportation. One of the luxuries that so many of us take for granted. Whether you’re used to driving yourself or catching some form of public transportation, it’s easy to assume that if we can hop in the car or on a bus to get somewhere, then so can everyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of it. Rural areas typically don’t have the public transportation systems in place that urbanized cities do. So why not just drive yourself? Well not only are cars a financial burden that many don’t have the capacity to take on, but as you age, it becomes difficult to drive and we aren’t all lucky enough to have that friend or family member who can drive us around when we have a doctor’s appointment, or need prescription medicine, or even just food to eat.
The Johnson County Senior Center was seeing the struggle that transportation can be for the area’s aging population (60 years and older), particularly in a very rural area of Northeast Tennessee. It has been proven that the overall health of a person declines both physically and mentally without transportation. Why? Because it limits the places you can go and the people you can interact with. If you lose your transportation then you also quickly lose your ability to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, medical appointments and other necessary places.
In a search to find a solution, MyRide TN of Johnson County was brought to life. With one employee and a collection of volunteer drives using their own personal vehicles, who pay for the fuel expense of each trip, they got to work. One ride led to two, and two to three, but as always, there’s a cost to keep good things going. In 2021, MyRide TN of Johnson County was awarded a $10,000 grant from United Way of East TN Highlands’ Social Innovation Fund to keep the operations going and to provide scholarships to those who couldn’t afford the cost of the program ($25 per year, with $6 round trip fee).
To date, their dedicated volunteers have completed more than 3,500 rides at a cumulative distance of just under 35,000 miles, meaning that the MyRide program could’ve driven from New York City to Los Angeles…roundtrip…six times. But why drive back and forth between NYC and LA six times when you can use that time to ensure that the people in your community are taken care of?
It can be easy to take transportation for granted, but we’re glad that the Johnson County Senior Center didn’t. Social Innovation doesn’t require a world changing idea, just a desire to improve the community and a new idea on how to do it.
About United Way of East TN Highlands
Serving Washington, Carter, Johnson and Southern Sullivan Counties, our goal is to break the cycle of poverty by uniting people and resources to strengthen the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. Our vision is to be a community united to empower every person and organization to reach their full potential and achieve more.