Franklin Rides provides transportation to doctors visits free of charge

Program looking to expand, in need of volunteers, donations

By Rachel Lucas - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROCKY MOUNT - "I don't think we are unique in the fact that as a rural county, this is a problem that is unique to us, but we've decided to do something about it,” Mason said.

As demand for the service grows, they are hoping to expand, but they are in need for donations as well as more volunteer drivers. Mason said they have multiple fundraisers planned for the upcoming year such as a golf tournament, “Dancing for a cause,” as well as being one of the beneficiaries of the Smith Mountain Lake Home tours.

For those wishing to make a donation of any size or volunteer as a driver, call 540-482-0752.

A new way to get patients to the doctor gets rolling in Franklin County.

A major roadblock for many rural communities in our region is a lack of transportation.

At times the emergency room at Carilion Franklin County Memorial is overcrowded because people have no other way to get medical attention than an ambulance ride.

Now, if they can't get a ride, they've got someone to call.

Tom Mason, executive director of the Disability Rights and Resource Center, an organization that aims to help people live independently, noticed that need and started the "Franklin Rides" service.

Through a $23,000 grant from Carilion Clinic, as well as fundraising and community donations, Mason was able to purchase two vans to provide free rides to and from doctor’s visits for those who need it. Franklin Rides is under the DRRC umbrella, meaning they service anyone who may have a disability. He says that disability isn’t always clearly defined, and they work to make accommodations available to everyone who isn’t covered by Medicaid.

"A person who is 85 years old no longer able to drive with cancer, to me that is a disability. If we can help that individual get to a doctor’s appointment and help prolong their life or help decrease their pain or whatever, that is a great thing," Mason said.

He is one of several volunteer drivers who pick patients' up at home and take them to and from doctor's appointments. He hopes in the future to have more drivers and more vehicles. Mason said he envisions one vehicle per voting precinct available to help people in those areas.

They've been making about three runs each week with repeat clients. The calls keep coming in.

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