Joy ride: Catholic Charities Fort Worth provides free rides to vaccination sites
When 90-year-old Elizabeth Edwards learned she was eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, she registered for it as soon as she could, even before she had transportation to the Globe Life Field vaccination site in Arlington. Edwards, who lives in a Fort Worth senior complex, found her ride at Catholic Charities Fort Worth.
“It was a blessing,” Edwards said. “The drivers were so courteous and polite … and it was free!”
Edwards, who had not previously used CCFW Transportation Services, said she learned about rides to vaccination sites because CCFW had communicated with the manager of her complex.
“We still have people willing to help … people who care about other people and that’s beautiful,” she said.
Throughout the pandemic, CCFW has adjusted its services to the changing needs of the community. So, when the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Tarrant County, Transportation Services expanded its schedule to include free trips to vaccination sites. As of April 9, CCFW drivers completed 602 COVID-19 vaccination trips.
Todd Beard, head of CCFW social enterprises, said when Transportation Services distributed fliers advertising free rides to vaccination sites, it became clear there was a gap in public awareness about the vaccine.
“A sizeable portion of calls were from people who wanted to schedule their vaccine,” Beard said. “So we worked a little bit on that education … where the [vaccination] sites were and what they needed to do to obtain their vaccine. Then we were able to get them to and from vaccination sites with our customary door-to-door service.”
Joe Manuel, driver supervisor, said requests for rides to vaccination sites flooded the transportation schedule, increasing daily round trips by 25 to 30.
“We just had to do what we’ve always done, but we had to be more strategic in picking up people and scheduling drop offs,” he explained. “We don’t look at people as numbers but as people, as individuals, and we’re there to help them and do the best we can for them.”
Since 2011, CCFW Transportation Services has offered door-to-door service for medical appointments, employment, and even grocery shopping for seniors and those with disabilities. About three dozen full- and part-time paid drivers and six volunteers completed extensive training to ensure that clients travel safely to and from their destinations. To protect riders during the pandemic, they also sanitize vehicles between rides and at the end of each day, Beard explained.
Compared to the 78,000 rides logged in 2019, the transportation team experienced a significant drop in rides last year due to COVID. Yet, in 2020, drivers still traveled 649,000 miles, providing more than 50,000 rides — about 22,000 for medical needs and nearly 11,000 for employment.
Beard credits the Transportation Services team with the program’s consistent high quality of service.
“I’ve never seen such dedication among folks in my life,” he said. “There’s this passion to serve those in need and it resonates in them.”