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Transportation partnership opens doors for older adults

For over five years, Jewish Family Service has been partnering with Bethlehem non-profit ShareCare Faith in Action to provide rides to local older adults, a project called “The GO Program.” 

ShareCare’s mission is to provide free volunteer services to elderly or disabled persons in order to enhance their quality of life. One way they do that is through offering rides to those who can no longer drive themselves. 

The collaboration just makes sense, as ShareCare executive director Lynn Heiney explained. “It started out because they were doing transportation, and we were doing transportation,” she said. Since then, the program has only grown, and now the two organizations can pool their strengths to help each other. JFS goes out and does the initial home visits and assessments; ShareCare trains volunteers and matches their schedules with clients needing rides. 

ShareCare has volunteers from all over the Lehigh Valley, which has proved a valuable resource for JFS. “If one of [JFS’s] volunteers is not available [for a JFS client], we go into our pool. On the flipside, there are volunteers from JFS who will help us if we can’t get one of ours. That’s why it’s a lovely partnership,” said Heiney.

The volunteers agree. Bobbie Rudolph, who lives in B’nai B’rith House, has given over 600 rides. As she said, “It’s been an adventure.” 

Since retiring in 2014, Rudolph has dedicated a lot of time to The GO Program. As she was “always in the car” anyway, when the new retiree saw that JFS was looking for volunteers to drive older adults a few times a month, she thought, “Now that I can do!”

There are even some clients who ask specifically for Rudolph. “One gentleman is legally blind. I take him every two weeks to go food shopping, once a month to the JFS food bank, and to some doctor appointments. He’s a regular.”

There are always connections to be made. “It’s just interesting talking to different people. Over the years some people have been friends of my mom. My mom was in this building for 16 years, and I’m very active here, so everyone knows me,” Rudolph reflected.

Tama Lee Barsky is another frequent volunteer who takes people to JFS programs as well as their own appointments, shopping or whatever else they need. “I’ve met some really lovely ladies,” she said. “It gives me a good feeling to help these people.”

If you’re available even just once a month to offer a ride and a helping hand, contact JFS. As Barsky said, “The nice thing is you can pick and choose” when you volunteer based on your own schedule.