CARMEL VALLEY — Rides & Smiles, part of Jewish Family Service’s On the Go: Transportation Solutions for Older Adults program, began in 2004. In January 2012, the program expanded into Carmel Valley. It now celebrates its first year there providing mobility for seniors who previously had no public transportation.Rides & Smiles transports riders to necessary medical appointments, grocery shopping and other life necessities in San Diego County northern and eastern regions. Rides & Smiles is the largest volunteer-based transportation service in San Diego County. Other components of the JFS On the Go program include shuttle service, organized excursions and taxi scrip.
Expansion to Carmel Valley (and Tierrasanta) was possible due to grants from New Freedom Federal Funds and a TransNet Senior Mini Grant, which were awarded and are monitored by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
Rides & Smiles is open to people age 60 and older who are mentally alert and fairly ambulatory. Riders with mobility or memory issues may still enroll if they are accompanied by a caregiver. To enroll as a rider, call (619) 220-0268.
Rides are provided by a group of 275 volunteer drivers. Ride requests are posted on a convenient, web-based scheduling system for drivers to review, allowing riders to choose whom, when, and where they drive. No minimum number of rides is expected, secondary insurance is provided by JFS, and mileage is reimbursed. The average trip is 10 miles roundtrip.
Rides & Smiles always needs more volunteer drivers. Hour-long group training sessions for new volunteer drivers are held twice monthly throughout 2013. Upcoming sessions are at 3 p.m. Jan 22, at Jewish Family Service’s Turk Family Center at 8804 Balboa Ave. Those unable to attend a group session can request a one-on-one training session. To volunteer as a driver, call (858) 637-3051 or go to jfssd.org/onthego.