Drivers Assisting Seniors in Healdsburg, DASH, was unveiled June 17 and had its first ride on June 25, and since then the program has completed around 200 rides in their all electric vehicles for residents over 60 years old.
According to Healdsburg Community Services, DASH had its busiest day on Aug. 21 when three volunteer drivers provided 17 rides to eight passengers.
“It has been very well received,” said Donna O’Brien, volunteer coordinator for the city of Healdsburg. “I have over 50 enrolled riders now and every day I am enrolling more people.”
Active adult and senior services supervisor Anna Grant said the program has been so popular so far that she’s even been stopped in the Safeway parking lot about it.
“I was getting ice cream for a senior center root beer float party and there I was in the parking lot handing out cards about the program,” Grant said.
The program is funded by a mobility and assistant grant through Caltrans and the local Transit Occupancy Tax.
“This is us being able to invest back into the community those tourism dollars for a great need,” Grant said. “I’m just tickled that we have that opportunity.”
The free service can take riders
anywhere in town and out of town for medical appointments.
Grant said the most common destinations include appointments outside the city and locations within city limits such as the senior center, grocery store or a restaurant.
There are 15 qualified volunteer drivers and the program is expecting to get more next month.
In addition to driving, volunteers will also assist passengers in getting down the stairs, or loading groceries, or even escorting them to their medical appointment to make sure they make it to the correct building.
O’Brien and Grant said this extra step is what sets DASH apart from other transit services.
Grant said with DASH they are also able to combat isolation.
“We are combating a terrible disease of isolation. When our folks are isolated, depression kicks in and your health declines. So having this is like a lifeline,” Grant said. “The need is 100% there for our community to be able to get out and get around. The hardest thing about growing older is that every day you lose a little bit of independence and handing over the keys is a huge difficulty.”
DASH rider Elaine S. said of the program, “DASH is very easy to use. The cars are comfortable, the drivers are very competent and friendly, and I feel safe when I am out on a ride.”
Grant said they have “big eyes for the future.” She said they are hoping to do more and more rides so during the next budget year they could get more cars.
They would also like the opportunity to operate more than five days a week and to be able to provide evening rides.
“The reality is that our population in Healdsburg is 28% senior citizens. So as our population continues to age we need to make sure that we have opportunities in place for everyone to be able to stay in their home … and keep that independence.”
Need a ride?
Those who are interested in getting a ride or enrolling in the program can contact the DASH hotline at 707-431-3159. Be sure to call one week in advance for a ride request.
Out-of-town appointments must be scheduled between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
For appointments, be sure to specify where and when you need to be picked up and what your destination is.