Making the Ride Happen

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Making the Ride

Contributor: Holly Keenan, Mobility Manager at Making the Ride Happen, a program of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Inc.

Do you remember the day you got your driver’s license? That little plastic card represented a kind of freedom you probably never had before. Now imagine, 60 to 70 years later, having to give up that freedom. Most people describe giving up their driver’s license as a traumatic loss of independence and control. People do not want to burden family or friends so they often will not go out, may miss doctor appointments and become depressed due to isolation.

Making The Ride Happen is a place to get comprehensive transportation information for individuals with disabilities and those who are aging. For clients who are able to get into a personal car, we may provide rides through a volunteer driver program. We also offer training with an experienced bus rider called a “bus buddy,” for individuals who wish to use a public bus.

Our volunteer drivers report that they enjoy the new people they meet. Often clients live alone and the driver is the only person they interact with during the day. Some clients will make cookies or a pie for the driver and a friendship develops. I remember a driver telling me what an honor it was for her to “make the ride happen” for a very social and healthy 80-year-old to visit a friend who resided in a nursing home. The volunteer told me it made her feel good that she was contributing to someone else’s quality of life.

Making The Ride Happen started in 2004 as a result of the LIFE Study, a local community needs assessment that revealed older adults need to have transportation options to stay healthy and active in their community. In 2015, Making The Ride Happen provided more than 4,400 rides and 9 bus-training experiences with individuals in Outagamie, Calumet, and Winnebago counties. Most rides are for medical visits, but we also see rides for shopping, banking, volunteering, social experiences, visiting family, attending weddings and other outings. In addition, our staff fielded more than 5,200 information and assistance calls for those with questions about local transportation options. Just recently, Making The Ride Happen expanded services to Hortonville and Seymour. Funding from United Way Fox Cities helped during the transition time when we were working to expand the program and helps us to meet state and federal grant rules that require a 20% local funding match.

Do you want to get involved? We are always looking for volunteer drivers and bus buddies! We are very flexible; some drivers volunteer weekly, only in the winter, or only on weekends and evenings and some will be on-call, or a sub.  Please contact Holly Keenan at, visit 820 W. College Ave. (we will be moving to a new location soon), or call 920-225-1719 to access services or find out more about how you can help out.

Making the Ride Happen is one of more than 100 local programs supported by United Way Fox Cities.